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No. 5 





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No. 5 









PREFACE • • • • • • • vü 

A Psycho- Analytic Study of Hamlet i 

On 'Dying Together', with Special reference to Heinrich 

von Kleist' s Suicide 99 

An Unusual Case of 'Dying Together' . . • 106 

The Symbolic Significance of Salt in Folklore and 

Superstition • . . 112 


The God *töfthplex. The Belief that One is God, and 

the Resulting Character Traits 204 

The Influence of Andrea del Sarto's Wife on his Art . . . 227 

The Case of Louis Bonaparte, King of Holland 245 

The Madonnas Conception through the Ear. A Con- 
tribution to the Relation between Aesthetics and 
Religion 261 

War and Individual Psychology 360 

War and Sublimation 381 


A Linguistic Factor in English Characterology 391 

The Island of Ireland. A Psycho- Analytical Contribution 

to Political Psychology 398 

A Psycho-Analytic Study of the Holy Ghost 415 

index 431 


One fifth only of this book has previously been 
published in English. It has all been revised and the greater 
part largely re-written. 

The light which psycho-analysis is capable of throwing 
on the deeper problems of human thought and conduct 
is only beginning to be appreciated. The field over which 
it can be applied is almost indefinitely large. The parts 
touched on in the present volume constitute of course 
only a selection, yet they are sufficiently diverse: political 
psychology, artistic and literary creation, national and indiv- 
idual characterology, and the study of superstition, history, 
religion, and folk-lore. E. J. > 

December 1922. 




Psychologists have as yet devoted relatively little 
attention to individual analytic study of genius and of 
artistic creativeness, and have mainly confined themselves 
to observations of a general order. They seem to share 
the shyness or even aversion displayed by the world al 
large against too searching an analysis of a thing of 
beauty, the feeling expressed in Keats' lines on the pris- 
matic study of the rainbow. The fear that beauty may 
vanish under too scrutinizing a gaze, and with it our 
pleasure, is, however, only in part justified; much depends 
on the nature of the pleasure and on the attitude of the 
analyst. Experience has shewn that intellectual appreciation 
in particular is only heightened by understanding, and toi 
further this is one of the recognised social functions of 
the critic. Since, moreover, intellectual appreciation com* 
prises an important part of the higher forms of aesthetic 

1 This chapter is founded on an essay which appeared in the 
American Journal of Psychologe, January 1910, an enlarged Version of 
which was published in German as Heft 10 of the Schriften zur 
angewandten Seelenkunde under the name 'Das Problem des Hamlet 
und der Oedipus-Komplex', 191 1. 


appreciation, a deepened understanding can but increase 
this also. 

It has been found that with poetic creations this 
critical procedure cannot halt at the work of art itself; 
to isolate this from its creator is to impose artificial limits 
to our understanding of it. As Masson, * in defending his 
biographical analysis of Shakespeare, justly says: *not tili 
every poem iiasHbreen, ^^ asTTlvere, chased up to the 
moment oT~itsT org^c" ^orjgm^ and resolved into the mood 
or intention^ or c^s|^^ out of which~lt 

sprang, will its import be adequately feit " or understood. ' 
A work of art is too often^regärded"" äs" ~ä^' : Hiushed thing- 
in-itself, something almost independent of the creator's person- 
ality, so that little would be learned about the one or 
the other by connecting the two studies. Informed criti- 
cism, howeyer, shews that a correlated spx^^oL4i^jMX> 
slieds iigfit in botfiT directions, on the inner nature of the 
composition^nS^th^tnen^tality of its author. The two 
can De s6pärated only at the expense of diminished apprec- 
iation, whereas to increase our knowledge of either auto- 
matically deepens our understanding of the other. Masson 2 
well says: 'What a man shall or can imagine, equally 
with what he shall or can desire, depends ultimately on 
his own nature, and so even on his acquisitions and 
experiences . . . Inmgir^tpn is not, after all, creation 
out of nothing, but only re-com^ati^n^^t tli^BjQ^g 
of motfcT^^ ^cbilsciolrs^^u^ 

materials fmmshecf by memory, readirj^ anjdZexperieQcej 
wmch\ifa1:e^^ wlth^ie^ndividual cases.' In assert- 

ing this determimstic point of vlew7 one char acter istic also 
of modern clinical psychology, Masson gives us a hint of 
one of the sources of the prevailing aversion from psycho- 

1 Masson: Shakespeare Personally, 191 4, p. 13. 

2 idem: op. cit, pp. 129, 130. 


logical analysis — namely, the preference for the belief that 
poetic ideas arise in their finished form, perhaps from 
some quasi-divine source, rather than as elaborations of 
simple and familiär elements devoid in themselves of 
glamour or aesthetic beauty. This attitude becomes still 
more comprehensible when one realises that the deeper, 
unconscious mind, which is doubtless the actual source of 
such ideas, as of all abstract ideas, is comprised of 
mental material discarded or rejected by the consciou^ 
mind as being incompatible with its Standards, material 
which has to be extensively transformed and purified 
before it can be presented to consciousness. The attitude, 
in short, is jone, joaore JlLustration ^Jh^onstan^^s]stance 
that. ^ man ~4isplays against any danger he may_ be in of 
apprehending Jiis inner nature. 

~~~ ~ ~TKe~ artist himself has always avoided a closely analytic 
attitude towards his work, evidently for the same reason 
as the common man. He usually dissociates the impelling 
motive force from his conscious will, and sometimes ascribes 
it to an actual external agency, divine or demonic. D'An- 
nunzio, for example, in his ( Flame of Life' makes his artist- 
hero think of 'the extraordinary moments in which his 
hand had written an immortal verse that had seemed to 
him not born of his brain, but dictated by an impetuous 
deity to which his unconscious organ had obeyed like a 
blind instrument'. Nowhere is the irresistible impetuosity 
of artistic creation more perfectly portrayed than in the 
memorable passage in ( Ecce Homo' where Nietzsche des- 
cribes the birth of 'Also sprach ZaratHustra', and its involun- 
tary character has been plainly indicated by most great 
writers, from Socrates to Goethe. I wish to lay special 
stress on this feature^on the artist's unawareness of t he 
ulümafe--i50uree qfjhis^creation, for it is cognate to th* 
argumenf^STTKe oresent essay. 


Within the past few years the analytic investigation 
of the workings of genius has been infused with fresh 
interest by the luminous studies of Freud, who has reveal- 
ed some of the fundamental mechanisms by which 
artistic and poetic creativeness proceeds. * He has shewn 
that the main characteristics of these mechanisms have 
much in common with those underlying many apparently 
dissimilar mental processes, such as dreams, wit, and 
neurotic Symptoms; 2 further, that all these processes bear 
an intimate relation to fantasy, to the realisation of non- 
conscious wishes, to psychological Depression', to the revival 
of childhood memories, and to the psycho-sexual life of 
the individual. It was to be expected that the knowledge 
so laboriously gained by the psycho-analytic method devised 
by Freud would prove of great value in the attempt to 
solve the psychological problems concerned with the 
obscur^r motives of human_action_ and desire. In fact 
it is hard to think of any other scientific mode of 
approach to such problems than through the patient dis- 
secting of the deeper and more hidden elements of the 
mind which is the aim of this procedure. The results 
already obtained by Abraham, 3 Ferenczi, 4 Hitschmann, 6 

1 Freud: Der Wahn und die Träume in W. Jensen's Gradiva, 
1907; 'Der Dichter und das Phantasieren,' Neue Revue, 1908, Nr. 10, 
S. 716; 'Das Motiv der Kästchenwahl/ Imago, 1913, S. 257; Eine 
Kindheitserinnerung des Leonardo da Vinci, 1910. 

2 idem : Die Traumdeutung, 1900; Der Witz und seine Beziehung zum 
Unbewußten, 1905; Drei Abhandlungen zur Sexualtheorie, 1905; Samm- 
lung kleiner Schriften, 1906-18. 

8 Abraham: Traum und Mythus. Eine Studie zur Völkerpsycho- 
logie, 1909; 'Amenhotep IV. Psychoanalytische Beiträge zum Verständnis 
seiner Persönlichkeit und des monotheistischen Aton-Kultes', Imago, 
1912, S. 334. 

4 Ferenczi: Contributions to Psycho-Analysis (Engl. Transl.), 1916. 

5 Hitschmann: Gottfried Keller, 1919. 


Rank, 1 Sadger, 2 myself, 3 and others are only a foretoken 
of the applications that will be possible when this method 
has been employed over a larger field than has hitherto 
been the case. 


The particular problem of Hamlet, with which this 
essay is concerned, is intimately related to some of the 
most frequently recurring problems that are presented 
in the course of psycho-analytic work, and it has thus 
seemed possible to secure a fresh point of view from 
which an answer might be proffered to questions that 
have baffled attempts made along less technical lines. 
Some of the most competent literary authorities have 
freely acknowledged the inadequacy of all the Solutions of 
the problem that have hitherto been suggested, and when 
judged by psychological Standards their inadequacy is still 
more evident. The aim of the present essay is to expound 
and bring into relation with other work an hypothesis 
suggested some twenty years ago by Freud in a footnote 
to his ' Traumdeutung'. 4 Before attempting this it will be 
necessary to make a few general remarks about the nature of 
the problem and the previous Solutions that have been offered. 

The problem presented by the tragedy of ( Hamlet* is 
one of peculiar interest in at least two respects. In the 

1 Rank: Der Künstler. Ansätze zu einer Sexual-psychologie, 1907; 
Der Mythus von der Geburt des Helden, 1909; Die Lohengrinsage, 
191 1; Das Inzest-Motiv in Dichtung und Sage, 191 2; Psychoanalytische 
Beiträge zur Mythenforschung, 19 19. 

2 Sadger: Konrad Ferdinand Meyer. Eine pathographisch-psycho- 
logische Studie, 1908; Aus dem Liebesleben Nicolaus Lenaus, 1909; 
Friedrich Hebbel, 1920. 

8 Ernest Jones: Papers on Psycho-Analysis, 191 8; Essays in 
Applied Psycho-Analysis, 1922. 

4 Freud: Die Traumdeutung, 1900, S. 183. 


first place, the play is almost universally considered to be 
the chief masterpiece of one of the greatest minds the 
world has known. It probably expresses the core of Shake- 
speare^ philosophy and outlook on life as no other work 
of his does. Bradley 1 writes, for instance: 'Hamlet is the 
most fascinating character, and the most inexhaustible, in 
all imaginative literature. What eise should he be, if the 
world's greatest poet, who was able to give almost the 
reality of nature to creations totally unlike himself, put his 
own soul straight into this creation, and when he wrote 
Hamlets speeches wrote down his own heart?' Figgis 2 
calls Hamlet 'Shakespeare's completest declaration ol 
himself*. Taine's 3 opinion* also was that 'Hamlet is 
Shakespeare, and at the close of a gallery of portraits, 
which have all some features of his own, Shakespeare has 
painted himself in the most striking of them all.' It may 
be expected, therefore, that anything which will give us 
the key to the inner meaning of the play will necessarily 
provide a clue to much of the deeper workings of Shake- 
speare's mind. 

In the second place, the intrinsic interest of the play 
itself is exceedingly great. The central l^steryjnft — 
namely, the cause of Hamlet* srhtfsit^tlcy in seeKing to ojrt giin 

^vengeTbr his father's muraer 4 — has well been called 
: 3te /w SpEirt?r of^hlodernTTiterature. 5 rHhas ^givetTlPis& to a 

1 Bradley: Oxford Lectures on Poetry, 1909, p. 357. 

2 Darreil Figgis: Shakespeare: A Study, 191 1, p. 320. 

8 Taine: Histoire de la Litterature Anglaise, 1866, t. n, p. 254. 

4 The desperate effort has been made, e. g. by J. M. Robertson 
(The Problem of 'Hamlet', 1919, pp. 16, 17) to deny the existence of this 
delay, only, however, for it to be found necessary on the very next page 
to admit it and propound a reason for it. 

5 It is but fitting that Freud should have solved the riddle of this 
Snhfnv. as he has that of the Thehan one. 


and controversial literature. No detailed account of them 
will here be attempted, for this is obtainable in the writings 
of Loening, 1 Döring, 2 and others, but the main points ot 
view that have been put forward must be briefly mentioned. 
Of the Solutions that have been offered many will 
probably be remembered on account of their very extrav- 
agance. 3 Allied if not belonging to this group are the 
hypotheses that see in Hamlet only allegorical tendencies 
of various kinds. Thus Gerth 4 sees in the play an elaborate 
defence of Protestantism, Rio 5 and Spanier 6 on the contrary 
a defence of Roman Catholicism. Stedefeld 7 regards it as 
a protest against the scepticism of Montaigne, Feis 8 as one 
against his mysticism and bigotry. A writer under the name 
of Mercade 9 maintains that the play is an allegorical philo- 
sophy of history : Hamlet is the spirit of truth-seeking which 
realises itself historically as progress, Claudius is the type 
of evil and error, Ophelia is the Church, Polonius its 

1 Loening: Die Hamlet-Tragödie Shakespeares, 1893. This book is 
especially to be recommended, for it is certainly the most critical work 
on the subject. 

2 Döring: 'Ein Jahrhundert deutscher Hamlet-Kritik', Die Kritik, 
1897, Nr. 131. 

3 Such as, for instance, the view developed by Vining (The Mystery 
of Hamlet, 1881) that Hamlet's weakness is to be explained by the fact 
that he was a woman wrongly brought up as a man. A writer in the 
New Age (February 22, 191 2) suggested that Hamlet's delay was simply 
due to the necessity of making the play a presentable length! 

4 Gerth: Der Hamlet von Shakespeare, 1861. 

5 Rio: Shakespeare, 1864. 

6 Spanier: Der i Papist' Shakespeare im Hamlet, 1890. 

7 Stedefeld: Hamlet, ein Tendenzdrama Shakespeare's gegen die 
skeptische und kosmopolitische Weltanschauung des M. de Montaigne, 1871. 

8 Feis: Shakspere and Montaigne, 1884. The importance of 
Montaigne's influence on Shakespeare, as shewn in Hamlet, was first 
remarked by Sterling (London and Westminster Review, 1838, p. 321), 
and has been clearly pointed out by J. M. Robertson, in his book 
4 Montaigne' and Shakespeare, 1897. 

9 Mercade: Hamlet; or Shakespeare's Philosophy of History, 1875. 


Absolutism and Tradition, the Ghost is the ideal voice of 
Christianity, Fortinbras is Liberty, and so on. Many writers, 
tncluding Plump tre 1 and Silberschlag, 2 have read the play 
as a satire on Mary, Queen of Scots T and her marri age 
with Bothwell after the murder of Darnley, and Winstanley 3 { 

hasrecenflymade out a case for^ the view that th e figure 
of HamletT wasHSgel^T^Hn^Jr^m that of James VI of 
Scotland, the heir to the English throneT^while Elze^Isaac, 5 
and others have found in it a relation to the Earl of Essex^s 
dome§tfe-^x£me overiook a charact- 

eristic of all Shakespeare* s works, and indeed those of 
any great artist — namely, the Subordination of either current 
or tendencious interests to the inspiration of the work as 
an artistic whole. 

The most important hypotheses that have been put 
forward are sub-varieties of three main points of view. The 
first of these sees the difficulty about the Performance 
of the task in Hamlet's temperament, which is not fitted 
(or effective action of any kind; the second sees it in the 
nature of the task, which is such as to be almost impossible 
of Performance by any one; and the third in some special 
feature of the task that renders it peculiarly difficult or 
repugnant to Hamlet. 

Thejirstof these views, sometimes called the 'subjective' 
öne, which would trace the inhibition to some general defect 
in Hamlets Constitution, was independently elaborated more 
than a Century ago by Mackenzie, 6 Goethe, 7 Coleridge, 8 

1 Plumptre: Observations on Hamlet, 1796. 

2 Silberschlag : * Shakespeare's Hamlet ', Morgenblatt, 1 860, Nr. 46, 47. 

3 Lilian Winstanley: Hamlet and the Scottish Succession, 1920. 

4 Elze: Shakespeare's Jahrbuch, Bd. III. 

5 Isaac: Shakespeare's Jahrbuch, Bd. XVI. 

6 Henry Mackenzie: The Mirror, April 18, 1780. 

7 Goethe: Wilhelm Meistens Lehrjahre, 1795, Bd. IV, Kap. XIII. 

8 Coleridge: Lectures on Shakespeare, 1808. 


and Schlegel. 1 Partly because of its assocration with Goethe, 
who promulgated the view as a young man when under the 
influence of Herder 2 (who, by the way, later abandoned it 3 ), 
it has been the most widely held view of Hamlet, and he 
is still almost always represented on the stage in this light. 
Hardly any literary authorities, however, have held it in the 
past half Century, though in 1850 Gervinus 4 could still write: 
4 Since this riddle has been solved by Goethe in his Wilhelm 
Meister, we can scarcely conceive that it was one\ Türck 5 
suggestively remarks that Goethe's view of Hamlet was a 
projected account of his own Werther. The oft-quoted 
passage describing Hamlet runs as follows: 'To me it is 
clear that Shakespeare meant to present a great deed 
imposed as a duty upon a soul that is too feeble for its 
accomplishment. Here is an oak-tree planted in a costly 
vase that should have nurtured only the most delicate 
flowers: the roots expand; the vase is shattered. A pure, 
noble, highly moral disposition, but without that energy of 
soul which constitutes the hero, sinks under a load, which 
it can neither support nor resolve to abandon.' 

Thus the view is essentially that Hamlet, for tem- 
peramental reasons, was inherently incapable of decisive 
action of any kind. These temperamental reasons are variously 
stated by different writers: by Mackenzie as ( an extreme 
sensibility of mind, apt to be too strongly impressed by its 
Situation, and overpowered by the feelings which that 
Situation excites', by Goethe as ( over-sensitiveness ', by 

1 Schlegel: Vorlesungen über dramatische Kunst und Litteratur, 

ni, 1809. 

2 Herder: Von deutscher Art und Kunst, 1773. 

3 idem: Aufsatz über Shakespeare im dritten Stück der Adrastea, 1801. 

4 Gervinus: Shakespeare, Dritte Auflage, Bd. II, S. 98. English 
Transl. p. 550. 

5 Hermann Türck: Das psychologische Problem in der Hamlet- 
Tragödie, 1890, S. 8. 


Coleridge as 'overbalance in the contemplative faculty', 
by Schlege l as 'refl ective deliberation — often a pretext 
to xsxge r c g^ardice^and lack of decision~7 bjr" Vischer 1 äs 
Vmelancholic disposition ', and so on; Trench 2 recently 
described Hamlet as ( a man of contemplation reacting only 
mentally, being from the first incapable of the required 
action'. It will be noticed that while some of these writers 
lay stress on the over-sensitiveness of feeling, others think 
rather of an unduly developed mental activity. A view fairly 
representative of the pure Coleridge school, 3 for instance, 
would run somewhat as follows: Owing to his highly developed 
intellectual powers, Hamlet could never take a simple or 
Single view of any question, but always saw a number of 
different aspects and possible explanations with every problem. 
A given course of action never seemed to him unequivocal 
and obvious, so that in practical life his scepticism and 
reflective powers paralysed his conduct. He thus Stands for 
what may roughly be called the type of an intellect over- 
developed at the expense of the will, and in the Germany 
of the past he was frequently held iip as a warning exampte 
to university professors who shewed signs of losing themselve) 
in abstract trains of thought at the risk of diminished contac 
with external reality. 4 

1 Vischer: Kritische Gänge. Neue Folge. 1861, Heft 2. 

2 W. F. Trench: Shakespeare's Hamlet: A New Commentary, 191 3, 
pp. 74-9, 119, 137. 

3 An expanded account of Coleridge's view is given by Edward 
Strachey: Shakespeare's Hamlet: An Attempt to find the Key to a Great 
Moral Problem by Methodical Analysis of the Play, 1848. 

4 See for instance Köstlin: Shakespeare und Hamlet, Morgenblatt, 
1864, Nr. 25, 26. Already in 18 16 Börne in his Dramaturgischen Blättern 
had amusingly developed this idea. He closes one article with the words 
*If it had been a German who had written Hamlet I should not have 
been at all surprised. A German would need only a fine legible hand 
for it. He describes himself and there you have Hamlet'. Frank Harris 
(The Man Shakespeare and his Tragic Life-Story, 1909, p. 267) writes 


There are at least three grave objections to this view 
of Hamlet* s hesitancy, one based on general psychological 
considerations and the pthers on objective evidence furnished 
by the text of the play. It is true that at first sight 
increasing scepticism and reflection might appear to weaken 
motive, inasmuch as they tear aside common illusions as 
to the value of certain lines of conduct; this is well seen, 
for example, in such a matter as social reform, where a 
mans energy in carrying out minor philanthropic under- 
takings wanes in proportion to the amount of clear thought 
he gives to the subject. But closer consideration will shew 
that this debilitation is a qualitative rather than a quanti- 
tative one. Sceptic ism m erel y leads to a si mplification o f 
motive in general, _ and to a re duction in jthe number of 
thos_S-~4»olx£ £s that are efficacious^ it brings about a lack 
of adherence to rertain rorrventional ones ratl ^r_than a 
general faihy&_^jn t he Springs of actionTH Every Student of 
individual^i^ any such generaljvveakening 

in e nergy is invariably due^to other causes„Üi^jiitel]^ct^^ 
sceglici^Tir.namely, to thejgsultg ofyburied intrarpsychicat 
XiOJiflic^s^This train ol thought need not be further 
developed here, for it is really irrelevant to discuss the 
cause of Hamlet's general aboulia if, ja§>will presently be 
maintained, ^ffiisdidl?^^ the argument, then, must 

remain unconvincing except to those who already apprehend 
its validity. 

Unequivocal evidence of the inadequacy of the 
hypothesis under discussion may be obtained from perusal 
of the play. In the first place, as was first emphatically 
pointed out by Hartley Coleridge, 1 there is every reason 

that Hamlet 'became a type for ever of the philosopher or man of iettefs 
who, by thinking, has lost the capacity for action'. 

1 Hartley Coleridge: 'On the Character of Hamlet*, Blackivood's 
Magazine^ 1828. 


to believe that, apart from the task in question, Hamlet 
is a man capable of very decisive action. This could be 
not only impulsive, as in the killing of Polonius, but 
deliberate, as in the arranging for the death of Guildenstern 
and Rosencrantz. His biting scorn and mockery towards 
his enemies, and even towards Ophelia, his cutting 
denunciation of his mother, his lack of remorse after the 
death of Polonius; these are not signs of a gentle, yielding 
or weak nature. His mind was as rapidly made up about 
the Organisation of the drama to be acted before his 
uncle, as it was resolutely made up when the unpleasant 
task had to be performed of breaking with the no longer 
congenial Ophelia. He shews no trace of hesitation when 
he stabs the listener behind the curtain, l when he makes 
his violent onslaught on the pirates, leaps into the grave 
with Laertes or accepts his challenge to what he must 
know was a duel, or when he follows his Father's spirit on 
to the battlements; 2 nor is there any lack of determina- 
tion in his resolution to meet the ghost: 

Fll speak to it, though hell itself should gape 
And bid me hold my peace, 

or in his cry when Horatio clings to him: 

Unhand me, gentlemen; 
By heaven! Fll make a ghost of him that lets me; 
I say, away! 

On none of these occasions do we find any sign of that 
paralysis of doubt which has so frequently been Im^teJ 

1 I find Loening's detailed argument quite conclusive that Hamlet 
did not have the King in his mind when he Struck this blow (op. cit, 
S. 242-4, 362-3). 

2 Meadows (Hamlet, 1871) considers that Hamlet's behaviour on 
this occasion is the strongest proof of his mental health and vigour. 


to him. On the contrary, not once isoliere _ajiy sgrt_of 
failureTm moral^or physical jcourage except only jnjiie 
matter of the revenge^ Bradley, who calls Hamlet l a heroic, 
terrible figure', 1 writes of the Coleridge view: 2 ( The 
theory describes, therefore, a man in certain respects like 
Coleridge himself, on one jsicLe a man oi genius, on the 
other side, the side of will, deplorably weak, always 
procrastinating and avoiding unpleasant duties, and often 
reproaching himself in vain; a man, observe, who at an^ 
time^and injwy circumstances ^would ge unequal Jo the 
task assigned to Hamlet. And thus, I mus^^n^tain^Jt 
degrades Hamlet and travesties the J?la}^ For Hamlet, 
according to all the indigaftons in the text, was not 
naturally or normally sucl\ a man, but rather, I venture 
to affirm, a man who at any other time and in any 
other circumstances than those presented would have 
been perfectly equal to his task; and it is, in fact, the 
very cruelty of his fate that the crisis of his life comes 
on him at the one moment when he cannot meet it, and 
when his highest gifts, instead of helping him, conspire to 
paralyse him.* 

In the second place, as will later be expounded, 
Hamlet's attitude is never that of a man who feels himselt 
not equal to the task, but rather that of a man who for 
some reason cannot bring himself to perform his piain 
duty. The whole picture is not, as Goethe depicted, 
one of a gentle soul crushed beneath a colossal task, 
but one ofj^strpjjg_ man „ tortujred by some mjsteriotjs 
Inhibition. '^""^ 

Already in 1827 a protest was raised by Hermes 3 
against Goethe's interpretation, and since then a number 

1 Bradley: Shakespearean Tragedy, 2nd. Ed. 1905, p. 102. 

2 idem: op. cit., p. 107. 

3 Hermes : Ueber Shakespeare's Hamlet und seine Beurteiler, 1827. 


of hypotheses have been put forward in which Hamlet' s 
temperamental deficiencies are made to play a very sub- 
ordinate part. The second of the group of views here 
discussed goes in fact to the opposite extreme, and finds 
in the difficulty of the task itself the sole reason for the 
non-perforfnance of it; it has therefore been termed the 
'objective', in contrast to the former 'subjective' hypothesis. 
This view was first hinted by Fletcher, l perhaps deriving from 
Hartley Coleridge, and was independently developed by Klein 2 
and Werder. 3 It maintains that the extrinsic difficulties 
inherent in the task wefe^^ö^-^tt^pendoüs^ as to^irave 
deterred anyone, however determined. To do this it is 
necessary to conceive the 1 , task in a different light from 
the usual one. As a development largely of the Hegeli an 
teachings o n the subject^oiTab stract just i ce, Klein, and to 
a lesser jRxtent "Werdir^^ that^the essence of 

lamlet's revenge consisted not merely in slaying the 
murderer, but of convicting him of his crime in the eyes 
of the nation. The argument, then, runs as follows: The 
nature of Claudius' crime was so frightful and so unnatural 
as to render it incredible unless supported by a very 
considerable body of evidence. If Hamlet had simply slain 
his uncle, and then proclaimed, without a shred of Support- 
ing evidence, that he had done it to avenge a fratricide, 
the nation would infallibly have cried out upon^hhfiT not 
only for murdering his uncle to seize the throne himself, 
but also for selfishly seeking to cast an infamous slur on 
the memory of a man who could no longer defend his 

1 Fletcher: Westminster Review, September 1845. 

2 Klein: 'Emil Devrient's Hamlet', Berliner Modenspiegel, eine 
Zeitschrift für die elegante Welt, 1846, Nr. 23, 24. 

3 Werder: * Vorlesungen über Shakespeare's Hamlet', Preußische 
Jahrbücher 187 3-4; reprinted in book form, 1875. Translated by 
E. Wilder, 1907, under the title of 'The Heart of Hamiet's Mystery*. 


honour. This would have resulted in the sanctification of 
the uncle, and so the frustration of the revenge. In other 
words it was the difficulty not so much of the act itself 
that deterred Hamlet as of the Situation that would necess- 
arily result from the act. 

Thanks mainly to Werder's forcible presentation of 
this view, several prominent critics T includjag Eucness, x 
Halliw ell-Fhillips^ Widgery,* Hudson/ 4 C orson^and Rol feJ* 
have given it their adherence: Werder himself confidently 
wrote of his thesis: 'That this point for a Century long 
should never have been seen is the most incomprehensible 
thing that has ever happened in aesthetic criticism 
from the very beginning of its existence'. It has not, 
however, found much favour in the Hamlet literature 
proper, and has been crushingly refuted by a number of 
able critics, more particularly by Hebler, 7 Baumgart, 8 
Bulthaupt, 9 Ribbeck, 10 Loening, n Bradley, 12 Tolman, 13 and 
Robertson. 14 

I need, therefore, do no more than mention one or 
two of the objections that can be raised to it. It will be 

1 Furness: ANewVariorum Edition of Shakespeare, Vols. ÜI and 
IV, 1877. 

2 Halliwell-Phillips: Memoranda on the Tragedy of Hamlet, 1879. 

3 W. H. Widgery: Harness Prize Essays on the First Quarto of 
Hamlet, 1880. 

4 Hudson: Shakespeare's Life, Art, and Characters, 2nd. Ed., 1882. 

5 Corson: Cited by Rolfe, op. cit. 

Ä Rolfe: Introduction to the English Translation of Werder, op, 
cit, 1907. 

7 Hebler: Aufsätze über Shakespeare, 2. Ausg., 1874, S. 258-78. 

8 Baumgart: Die Hamlet-Tragödie und ihre Kritik, 1877,8.7-29. 

9 Bulthaupt: Dramaturgie des Schauspiels, 4. Aufl. 1891, II. S. 237. 
10 Ribbeck: Hamlet und seine Ausleger, 1891, S. 567. 

II Loening: op. cit, S. 1 10-13 and 220-4. 
12 Bradley: op. cit, Art 'Hamlet'. 

13 Tolman: Views about Hamlet and other Essays, 1904. 

14 J. M. Robertson: The Problem of 'Hamlet', 1919, pp. 21-3. 


seen that to support this hypothesis the task has in two 
respects to be made to appear more difficult than it really 
is : first it is assumed to be not a^injple_^reyenge 
in the «iy^haary^gen&e °f ^e word, but a complicatgd 
bringing to judgement in a more or JcssMegal way; jind 
se^ndfytEe^ importance^ oTjHe^external obstacles_has, to 
Se greatlve^ggerated. This distortion of the meaning oi 
the revenge is purely gratuitous and has no Warrant 
in any passage of the play, nor elsewhere where the 
iword is used in Shakespeare. 1 Hamlet never doubted 
th^t^ he^jö^as thj^_]egitimately_ app^tec^jj^trunient^ ol 
p^j^hm^r^^nd^ßi^xi at the end of the^ pla^ he^secures 
his reveng^jhe - 4£3fflatic Situation js_jx)rrectly resolved, 
although the nation_is not even informed, let alone 

conyinced, .4^L_the murder^ that is being avenge^i. Tc 

secure evidence that would convict the uncle in a court 
of law was from the nature of the case impossible, 
and no tragical Situation can arise from an attempt 
to achieve what is evidently impossible, nor could the 
interest of the spectator be aroused for an obviously 
one-sided struggle. 

The external Situation is similarly distorted for the 
needs of this hypothesis. On which side the people would 
have been in any conflict is clearly enough perceived by 
Claudius, who dare not even punish Hamlet for killing 
Polonius (Act IV, Sc. 3): 

Yet must not we put the strong law on him; 

He's loved of the distracted multitude, 

Who like not in their judgment, but their eyes; 

1 Loening (op. cit, Cap. VI) has made a detailed study of the 
significance of revenge in Shakespeare^ period and as illustrated 
throughout liis works; his conclusion on the point admits of no 


and again in Act IV, Sc. 7, 

The other motive, 
Why to a public count I might not go, 
Is the great love the general gender bear him; 
Who, dipping all his faults in their affection, 
Would, like the spring that turneth wood to stone, 
Convert his gyves to graces; so that my arrows, 
Too lightly umher' d for so loud a wind, 
Would have reverted to my bow again, 
And not where I had aim'd them. 

The ease with which the people could be roused 
against Claudius is well demonstrated after Polonius , death, 
when Laertes carried them with him in an irresistible demand 
for vengeance, which would promptly have been consummateld 
had not the king immediately succeeded in convincing the 
avenger that he was innocent. Here the people, the false 
Danish dogs whose loyalty to Claudius was so feather-light 
that they gladly hailed as king even Laertes, a man who 
had no sort of claim on the throne, were ready enough to 
believe in the murderous guilt of their monarch without 
any shred of supporting evidence, when the accusation was 
not even true, and where no motive for murder could be 
discerned at all approaching in weight the two powerful 
ones that had actually led him to kill his brother. Where 
Laertes succeeded, it is not likely that Hamlet, the darling 
of the people, would have failed. Can we n ot imagine_ the_ 
march of events during the play before the court, had 
Ha mlet lEere^si^wriiüie same mettie as Laertes^did: the" 

straining Observation of the^ore-vrarned nobles, the starting 
up of the guilty monar ch who can bear the spectacle «no 
[onger, t h e open mnrnrnirin g of the audience , the xesistless 
impeachment by the avenger, and the instant executi on 
ef feeted by him and his d^ vn ^d fri^nds ? Indeed, the whole 


Laertes episode seems almost deliberately to have been 
woven into the drama so as to shew the world how^a 
ßious^ son should jreally ^^witii his father's murderer^ 
how possible was the vengeance in just these ^^ticular 
^rcumsjtance^^ and by contrast_to illuminate the ignoble 
vacillation of Hamlet whose hpnour had^been doublj; 
wounded by the same treacherous villairL^^, 

~" The deeper meaning of the difference in the behaviour 
of the two men in a similar Situation has been aptly pointed 
out by Storfer: 1 4 When we compare the earlier versions 
of the Hamlet theme with Shakespeare's tragedy, 
Shakespeaj^V^eat_£sychological intuition becomes eviclenkr 
The earlier versionsturned on~a political action relating to 
the^stateT the heir to tt^tfrn^^ 

usurper for3HTe__nMrder„.of- Ae J3^I Ta Shakespeare the 
family tragedy is placed in the foregr<5un3T^The origin of 
"all^i^oltlttörßr is therTgvoftrtion inThe"1amily. Shakespeare's 
Hamlef^Ts töo^philosopEIcal a man, too"^Tmrch given to 
introspection, not to feel the personal and family motive 
behind the general political undertaking. Laertes^_i)n the 
other hand, is blind and deaf to this e^jiLolo^-oLJhüling, 
to~ffie unconscious mind; his response to his father 
PoloniulT murder iraT^Htlcalnrevolt. The behaviour oTtfie 
ttvolnS^^ well characteriges. 

the conscious and the unconscious mind in the psychology 
of tHeT*evomtionary and of thepolitical criminal.' 
'^^^Most convmcin^ proof of ^mhr^t^l^gedy cannot 
be interpreted as residing in difficulties produced by the 
external Situation is Hamlet's own attitude towards his 
task. He never behaves as a man confronted with a 
staaightforward task, in which there are merely external 

difficulties to overcome. If this had been so surely he 

1 Storfer: Zur Sonderstellung des Vatermordes, 191 1, S. 14. 


would from the first have confided in Horatio and his other 
friends who so implicitly believed in him, as he did in the 
pre-Shakespearean versions of the play when there really 
were external difficulties of a more serious nature than in 
Shakespeare's, and would deliberately have set to work 
with them to formulate plans by means of which these 
obstacles might be overcome. Instead of this he nev^j; 
makes any serious attempt to ^j^aTwitf^jhe external 
situatiQn^ anS^dee^^throughout theglay makes^no cpricretg 
reference to lt as such^jev en jn the sig n ificant pray^r xr.erig 
\£herThe had every opportunity to dis close to us the reason 
ToF liis^non-a ction. T heTe^Is^tHerefore no escape from the 
cönclusion that so far as the external Situation is concerned 
the task was a possible one, and was regarded as such by 

If Hamlet is a man capable of action, and the task 
one capable of achievement, what then can be the reason 
that he does not execute it? Critics who have realised 
the inadequacy of the hypotheses mentioned above — and 
this is true of nearly all modern critics — have been hard 
pressed to answer this question. Some, Struck by Klein's 
Suggestion that the task is not really what it appears to be, 
have offered novel interpretations of it. Thus Mauerhof 1 
maintains that the Ghost's command to Hamlet was not, 
as is generally supposed, to avenge his father by killing 
the king, but merely to put an end to the life of depravity 
his jrnother ,_ w as still leading, and that Hamlet's problem 
was how to accomplish this without tarnishing her name 
by disclosing the truth. Dietrich 2 put forward the singular 
view that Hamlet's task was to restore to Fortinbras the 
lands that had been unjustly filched from the latter's father. 

1 Mauerhof: Ueber Hamlet, 1882. 

2 Dietrich: Hamlet, der Konstabel der Vorsehung; eine Shake- 
speare-Studie, 1883. 



When straits such as these are reached it is little wonder 
that many competent critics have taken refuge in the 
conclusion that the tragedy is in its essence inexplicable, 
incoherent and incongruous. This view, first critically 
sustained by Rapp in 1 846, l has been developed by a 
number of writers, including von Friefen, 2 Rümelin, 3 
Benedix, 4 Robertson, 5 and many others. The causes of 
the dramatic imperfection of the play have been variously 
given: by Dowden 6 as a conscious interpolation by 
Shakespeare of some secret, by Reichel 7 as the defacement 
by an uneducated actor called Shakspere of a play by 
an unknown poet called Shakespeare, and so on. 

The argument, however, has usually taken the form 
of direct criticism of the poet's capacity, and therefore is 
found chiefly among writers of the eighteenth centuiTj^iich 
as Hanmer 8 and Mackenzie, 9 i. e. a time before (Dardolatry 
had developed, or eise at the time when this reaghec 
acme, during the"^ercentenam of 1864, by authors who 
headed the revulsion agamst it, including Von Friefen, 
Rümelin, and Benedix; the last-named of these ascribes 
Hamlet' s delay solely to the number of wholly superfluous 
episodes which occupy time in the play. It has lately been 
revived in a weightier form by J. M. Robertson, basing 
himself on the recent discoveries concerning the sources of 
the play. Robertsons thesis is that Shakespeare, finding in 

1 Rapp: Shakespeare's Schauspiele übersetzt und erläutert, 
Bd. VIII, 1846. 

2 Von Friefen: Briefe über Shakespeare^ Hamlet, 1864. 

3 Rümelin: Shakespeare-Studien, 1886. 

* Benedix: Die Shakespereomanie, 1873. 
5 Robertson: op. cit. 

* Dowden: Shakespeare; his development in his works, 1875. 

7 Reichel: Shakespeare-Litteratur, 1887. 

8 Hanmer: Some Remarks on the Tragedy of Hamlet, 1736. 

9 Mackenzie: op. cit. 


the old play 'an action that to his time-discounting sense 
was one of unexplained delay, elaborated that aspect ot 
the hero as he did every other', 1 'finally missing artistic 
consistency simply because consistency was absolutely excluded 
by the material'; 2 he concludes that 'Hamlet ' is 'not finally 
an intelligible drama as it Stands*, 3 that 'the play cannot^ 
be explained from within' 4 and that 'no jugglery can do 
away with the fact that the construction is incoherent, and the 
hero perforce an enigma, the snare of idolatrous criticism'. 5 
In a still more recent work, by Shore, the view is taken 
that the character is badly drawn, and that 'Shakespeare 
had no clear idea himself of what he meant Hamlet to be \ 6 
This seems to be the position on the whole prevailing at 
the present day; to deny the possibility of a Solution, or 
even the real existence of the problem, has always been the 
last resort when faced with an apparently insoluble enigma. 
Many upholders of this negative conclusion have consoled 
themselves with the thought that in this very obscurity, so 
characteristic of life in general, lie the power and attractiveness 
of the play. Even Grillparzer 7 saw in its impenetrability the 
reason for its colossal effectiveness; he adds 'it becomes 
thereby a true picture of universal happenings and produces 
the same sense of immensity as these do'. Now vagueness 
and obfuscation may or may not be characTieristic ofTHe" 

success ful drama. N o disconnected and intrinsically meaningles sL 
drama j:ouldLJiave produced the e ffect on its audienc es 
that * Haml et* has c ontinuously done for the past three 

1 Robertson: op. cit, p. 18. 

2 idem: op. cit, p. 85. 

3 idem: op. cit, p. 27. 

4 idem: op. cit, p. 29. 

5 idem: op. cit, p. 67. 

6 W. T. Shore: Shakespeare's Seif, 1920, p. 146. 

7 Grillparzer: Studien zur Litterärgeschichte, 3. Ausgabe, 1880. 


centuries. The underlying meaning of its mäin theme may 
be obscure, but that there is one, and one which touches 
matters of vital interest to theHErnian" Tieart , is empiric^lx 
^monstrat^"*ByTRS2} i nifürnr success'WlffTwRich the drama 
^peäls to the mostlKverse^üdieQces. Ter irold-ltar conffäry 
is to deny all the aeeepted canons of dramatic art: Hamlet* 
as3_masfreq)iece^staBds ~or4alkJ3Xjft ese canonsT^ 


We are compelled^then to take^the^posilign thaMhere 
is sorrie^ause for J^jplet^. vacillation which has not yet 
oeen fathomed. If this^Jies nejthg^in his incaga^i^Jor 
action in general, nor in the inordinate difficulty ofjhe 
partieufar task in question, then it must of necessity lie in 
the third possibility — namelyltT some specfal feature of the 
task that renders it repugnant to him.Tnis conclusion, that 
Hamlet at heart does not want to carry out the task, seems 
so obvious that it is hard to see how any open-minded 
reader of the play could avoid making it. x Some of the 
direct evidence for it furnished in the play will presently 
be brought forward when we discuss the problem of the 
cause of the repugnance, but it will first be necessary to 
mention some of the views that have been expressed on 
the subjeet. 

The first writer clearly to recognise that Hamlet was 
a man not baffled in his endeavours but struggli^Jti^an 
internal co nflict wj &A3inäzr~4& 1839. TOiedefansof Ulrichs 
l^polHesis^ which like Klein' s originated in the Hegelian 
views of morality, are not easy to follow, but the essence 

1 Anyone who doubts this conclusion is recommended to read 
Loening's convincing chapter (XII), 'Hamlet's Verhalten gegen seine 

2 Ulrici : Shakespeare's dramatische Kunst ; Geschichte und 
Charakteristik des Shakespeare'schen Dramas, 1839. 


of it is the contention that J^mlet^^avely doubted th& 
fnorfcTle|^fmac^^ He w^&Jiius ^ljJiiigeii inta a 

stmggle^betweerT his natural tendency to avenge his father 
and his highly developed ethical and Christian views, which 
forbade the indulging of this instinctive desire. This hypo- 
thesis has been further developed on moral, ethical and 
religious planes by Liebau, x Mezieres, 2 Gerth, 3 Baumgart, 4 
Robertson, B and Ford. 6 Köhler 7 ingeniously transferred. the 
conflict to the sphere of jurispruä^c^TT^intaining that 
Hamlet repres^ted^a type in adyance^ro£Ihis time in 
recognising Jiie.... superiofi^^öriegal punishment over private 
revenge or family Vendetta and wp^rthus a fighter in the 
van of progress7 he "writesT 8 "' ^Hamlet is a corner-stone inj 
the evöIufiorPof~"law and morality\ A similar view has 
been developed more recently by Rubinstein. 9 This special 
pleading has been effectually refuted by Loening 10 and 
Fuld; 11 it is contradicted by all historical considerations. 
Finally, Schipper 12 and, more recently, Gelber 13 have suggested 

*Liebau: Studien über William Shakespeares Trauerspiel Hamlet. 
Date not stated. 

2 Mezieres: Shakespeare, ses oeuvres et ses critiques, 1860. 

3 Gerth : op. cit. 

4 Baumgart : op. cit. 

5 J. M. Robertson: Montaigne and Shakspere, 1897, p. 129. 

6 Ford: Shakespeare's Hamlet: A New Theory, 1900. 

7 Kohler: Shakespeare vor dem Forum der Jurisprudenz, 1883; and 
Zur Lehre von der Blutrache, 1885. See also Zeitschrift für vergleichende 
Rechtswissenschaft^ Bd. V, S. 330. 

8 Kohler: Shakespeare etc.; op. cit, S. 189. 

9 Rubinstein: Hamlet als Neurastheniker, 1896. 

10 Loening: Zeitschrift für die gesamte Strafrechtszvissenschaft, 
Bd.V, S. 191. 

11 Fuld: * Shakespeare und die Blutrache', Dramaturgische Blätter 
und Bühnen-Rundschau, 1888, Nr. 44. 

^Schipper: Shakespeare's Hamlet; ästhetische Erläuterung des 
Hamlet, 1862. 

18 Gelber: Shakespeare' sehe Probleme, Plan und Einheit im 
Hamlet, 1891. 


that the conflict was a purely intellectual one, Hamlet being 
unable to satisty himself of the adequacy or reliability of 
the Ghost's evidence. In his recent interesting work Figgis 
combines these views by insisting that the play is a tragedy 
of honour, Hamlet' s main instinct: 'In striking at the King 
without a füll assurance of his guilt, was to him not only 
to strike at the legal monarch of the realm, but also to 
seem as though he was seizing a pretext to strike for the 
throne, he being the next in succession': 1 'What seems 
like indecision in the early portion of the play is really the 
honourable desire not to let his mere hatred of the King 
prick him into a gapkal action against an innocent man, to 
prove that the f^ipparitian of his father was no heated 
fantasy, and, above^atl7^4iotto take action tili he was 
assured that his action would not involve his mother\ 2 

The obvious question that one puts to the upholders 
of any of the hypotheses just mentioned is: why did Hamlet 
in his moriologues give us no indication of the nature of 
the conflict in his mind? As we shall presently note, he 
gave several pretended excuses for his hesitancy, but never 
tonce did he hint at any doubt about what his duty was 
in the matter. He was always clear enough about what he 
ought to do; the conflict in his mind ranged about the 
question why he couldnt bring himself to do it. If Hamlet 
had at any time been asked whether it was right for him 
to kill his uncle, or whether he really intended to do so, 
no one can seriously doubt what his instant answer would 
have been. Throughout the play we see his mind irrevocably 
made up as to the necessity of a given course of action, 
which he fully accepts as being his bounden duty; indeed, 
he would have resented the mere insinuation of doubt on 
this point as an untrue slur on his filial Riety. Ulrici, 

1 Figgis: op. cit, p. 213. 

2 idem: op. cit, p. 232. 


Baumgart and Kohler try to meet this difficulty by assuming 
that the ethical objeetion to personal revenge was never 
clearly present to Hamlet's mind; it was a deep and 
undeveloped feeling which had not fully dawned. I would 
agree that only in some such way as this can the difficulty 
be logically met, and further that in recognising Hamlet' s 
non-consciousness of the cause of his repugnance to his 
task we are nearing the core of the mystery. But an 
invincible obstacle in the way of accepting any of the 
causes of repugnance suggested above is that the nature of 
them is such that a keen and introspective thinker, as 
Hamlet was, would infallibly have recognised some indication 
of their presence, and would have openly debated them 
instead of deceiving himself with a number of false pretexts 
in the way we shall presently recall. Loening 1 well states 
this in the sentence: ( If it had been a question of a 
conflict between the duty of revenge imposed from without 
and an inner moral or juristic counter-impulse, this discord 
and its cause must have been brought into the region of 
reflection in a man so capable of thought, and so accustomed 
to it, as Hamlet was*. 

In spite of this difficulty the hint of an approaching 
Solution encourages us to pursue more closely the argument 
at that point. The hypothesis just stated may be correct 
up to a certain stage and then have failed for lack of 
special knowledge to guide it further. Thus Hamlet' s hesi- 
tancy may have been due to an internal conflict between 
the impulse to fulfil his task on the one hand and some 
special cause of repugnance to it on the other; further, 
the explanation of his not disclosing this cause of repug- 
nance may be that he was not conscious of its nature; 
and yet the cause may be one that doesn't happen to 

1 Loening: Die Hamlet-Tragödie Shakespeares, 1893, S. 78. 


have been considered by any of the upholders of this 
hypothesis. In other words, the first two stages in the 
argument may be correct, but not the third. This is the 
view that will now be developed, but before dealing with 
the third stage of the argument it is first necessary to 
establish the probability of the first two — namely, that 
Hamlet's hesitancy was due to some special cause of 
repugnance for his task and that he was unaware of the 
nature of this repugnance. 

A preliminary obstruction to this line of thought, 
based on some common prejudices on the subject of 
mental dynamics, may first be considered. If Hamlet was 
not aware of the nature of his inhibition, doubt may be 
feit as to the possibility of our penetrating to it. This 
pessimistic thought was expressed by Baumgart 1 as fol- 
lows: 'What hinders Hamlet in his revenge is for him 
himself a problem and therefore it must remain a problem 
for us all/ Fortunately for our investigation, however, 
psycho-analytic studies have demonstrated beyond doubt 
that mental trends hidden from the subject himself may 
come to external expression in ways that reveal their 
nature to a trained observer, so that the possibility of 
success is not to be thus excluded. Loening 2 has further 
objected to this hypothesis that the poet himself has not 
disclosed this hidden mental trend, or even given any indicatior* 
of it. The first part of his objection is certainly true — 
otherwise there would be no problem to discuss, but we 
shall presently see that the second is by no means true. 
It may be asked : why has the poet not put in a clearer 
light the mental trend we are trying to discover? Strange 
as it may appear, the answer is probably the same as 
with Hamlet himself — namely, he could not because he 

1 Baumgart: op. cit, S. 48. 

2 Loening: op. cit, S. 78, 79. 


was unaware of its nature. We shall later deal with this 
question in connection with the relation of the poet to 
the play. 

As Trench well says: 1 'We find it hard, with Shake- 
speare^ help, to understand Hamlet: even Shakespeare, 
perhaps, found it hard to understand him: Hamlet himself 
finds it impossible to understand himself. Better able than 
other men to read the hearts and motives of others, he 
is yet quite unable to read his own.' But, if the motive 
of the play is so obscure, to what can we attribute its 
powerful effect on the audience, for, as Kohler 2 asks, 'Who 
has ever seen Hamlet and not feit the fearful conflict that 
moves the soul of the hero? ' This can only be because the hero's 
conflict finds its echo in a similar inner conflict in the mind 
of the hearer, and the more intense is this already present 
conflict the greater is the effect of the drama. 3 Again, it 
is certain that the hearer himself does not know the inner 
cause of the conflict in his own mind, but experiences 
only the outer manifestations of it. So we reach the appa- 
rent paradox that the hero, the poet, and the audience 
are all profoundly moved by feelings due to a conflict of 
the source of which they are unaware. 

The fact, however, that such a conclusion should 
appear paradoxical is in itself a censure on populär ignor- 
ance of the actual workings of the human mind and 
before undertaking to sustain the assertions made in the 
preceding paragraph it will first be necessary to make a 
few observations on the prevailing views of motive and 
conduct in general The new science of clinical psychology 

1 Trench: op. cit, p. 115. 

2 Kohler: Shakespeare vor dem Forum der Jurisprudenz, 1883, S. 195 . 

3 It need hardly be said that the play, like most others, appeals 
to its audience in a number of different respects. We are here con- 
sidering only the main appeal, the central conflict in the tragedy. 


Stands nowhere in sharper contrast to the older attitudes 
toward mental functioning than on this very matter. 
Whereas the generally accepted view of man's mind, 
usually implicit and frequently explicit in psychological 
writings, regards it as an interplay of various processes 
that are for the most part known to the subject, or are 
at all events accessible to careful introspeotion on his part, 
the analytic methods of clinical psychology have on the 
contrary decisively proved that a far greater number of 
these processes than is commonly surmised arises from 
origins that he never even suspects. Man's belief that he 
is a self-conscious animal, alive to the desires that impel 
or inhibit his actions, is the last stronghold of that anthro- 
pomorphic and anthropocentric outlook on life which has 
so long dominated his philosophy, his theology, and, above 
all, his psychology. In other words, the tendency to take 
man at his own valuation is rarely resisted, and we assume 
that the surest way of finding out why a person commits 
a given act is simply to ask him, relying on the know- 
ledge that he, as we ourselves would in a like circumstance, will 
feel certain of the ans wer and will almost infallibly provide 
a plausible reason for his conduct. Special objective methods 
of penetrating into the more obscure mental processes, 
however, disclose the most formidable obstacles in the 
way of this direct introspective route, and reveal powers 
of self-deception in the human mind to which a limit 
has yet to be found. If I may quote from a former 
paper: 1 'We are beginning to see man not as the 
smooth, self-acting agent he pretends to be, but as 
he really is, a creature only dimly conscious of the 
various influences that mould his thought and action, 
and blindly resisting with all the means at his command 

1 c Rationalisation in Every Day Life/ Journal of Abnormal Psycho- 
logy, 1908, p. 168. 


the forces that are making for a higher and fuller 
consciousness. , 

That Hamlet is suffering from an internal conflict the 
essential nature of which is inaccessible to his introspection 
is evidenced by the following considerations. Throughout 
the play we have the clearest picture of a man who sees 
his duty piain before him, but who shirks it at every 
opportunity and suffers in consequence the most intense 
remorse. To paraphrase Sir James Paget's well-known 
description of hysterical paralysis: Hamlet's advocates say 
he cannot do his duty, his detractors say he will not, 
whereas the truth is that he cannot will. Further than this, 
the deficient will-power is localised to the one question of 
killing his unclej it is what may be termed a specific 
aboulia. Now instances of such specific aboulias in real life 
invariably prove, when analysed, to be due to an uncons- 
cious repulsion against the act that cannot be performed 
(or eise against something closely associated with the act, 
so that the idea of the act becomes also involved in the 
repulsion). In other words, whenever a person cannot 
bring himself to do something that every conscious con- 
sideration teils him he should do — and which he may have 
the strengest conscious desire to do — it is always because 
there is some hidden reason why he doesn't want to da 
it; this reason he will not own to himself and is only 
dimly if at all aware of. That is exactly the case with 
Hamlet. Time and again he works himself up, points out 
to himself his obvious duty, with the cruellest self-reproaches 
lashes himself to agonies of remorse — and once more falls 
away into inaction. He eagerly seizes at every excuse 
for occupying himself with any other matter than the Per- 
formance of his duty, just as on a lesser plane a person 
faced with a distasteful task, e. g. writing a difficult letter, 
will whittle away his time in arranging, tidying, and fidgetting 


with any little occupation that may serve as a 
pretext for procrastination. Bradley 1 even goes so far 
as to make out a case for the view that Hamlet's self- 
accusation of 'bestial oblivion* is to be taken in a 
literal sense, his unconscious detestation of his task 
being so intense as to enable him actually to forget it 
for periods. 

Highly significant is the fact that the grounds Hamlet 
gives for his hesitancy are grounds none of which will 
stand a moment's serious consideration, and which contin- 
ually change from one time to another. One moment he 
pretends he is too cowardly to perform the deed, at 
another he questions the truthfulness of the ghost, at 
another — when the opportunity presents itself in its naked 
form — he thinks the time is unsuited, it would be better 
to wait tili the King was at some evil act and then to # 
kill him, and so on. When a man gives at different times 
a different reason for his conduct it is safe to infer that, 
whether consciously or not, he is concealing the true 
reason. Wetz, 2 discussing a similar problem in reference 
to Iago, truly observes: * nothing proves so well how false 
are the motives with which Iago tries to persuade himself 
as the constant change in these ?notives\ We can there- 
fore safely dismiss all the alleged motives that Hamlet 
propounds, as being more or less successful attempts on 
his part to blind himself with self-deception. Loening's 3 
summing-up of them is not too emphatic when- he says: 
'they are all mutually contradictory; they are one and all 
false pretexts'. The alleged motives excellently illustrate 
the psychological mechanisms of evasion and rationalisation 

1 Bradley: op. cit, pp. 125, 126, 410, 411. 

2 Wetz: Shakespeare vom Standpunkt der vergleichenden Literatur- 
geschichte, 1890, Bd. I, S. 186. 

li Loening: op. cit, S. 245. 


I have elsewhere described. 1 It is not necessary, however, 
to discuss them here individually, for Loening has 
with the greatest perspicacity done this in füll detail 
and has effectually demonstrated how utterly untenable 
they all are. 2 

Still, in his moments of self-reproach Hamlet sees 
clearly enough the recalcitrancy of his conduct and renews 
his efforts to achieve action. It is interesting to notice how 
his outbursts of remorse are evoked by external happenings 
which bring back to his mind that which he would so 
gladly forget, and which, according to Bradley, he does 
at times forget: particularly effective in this respect are 
incidents that contrast with his own conduct, as when the 
player is so moved over the fate of Hecuba (Act II, Sc. 2), 
or when Fortinbras takes the field and 'finds quarrel in 
a straw when honour's at the stake* (Act IV, Sc. 4). On 
the former occasion, stung by the monstrous way in 
which the player pours out his feeling at the thought of 
Hecuba, he arraigns himself in words which surely should 
effectually dispose of the view that he has any doubt 
where his duty lies. 

What's Hecuba to him or he to Hecuba 

That he should weep for her? What would he do 

Had he the motive and the cue for passion 

That I have? He would drown the stage with tears, 

And cleave the general ear with horrid speech, 

Make mad the guilty and appal the free, 

Confound the ignorant, and amaze indeed 

The very faculties of eyes and ears. 

Yet I 

1 op. cit, p. 161. 

2 See especially his analysis of Hamlet' s pretext for non-action in 
the prayer scene. op. cit, S. 240-2. 


A dull and muddy-mettled rascal, peak, 

Like John-a-dreams, unpregnant of my cause, 1 

And can say nothing; no, not for a king, 

Upon whose property and most dear life 

A damn'd defeat was made. Am I a coward? 

Who calls me villain? breaks my pate across? 

Plucks off my beard, and blows it in my face? 

Tweaks me by the nose ? gives me the lie i' the throat, 

As deep as to the lungs? Who does me this? 


'Swounds, I should take it; for it cannot be 

But I am pigeon-liver'd, and lack gall 

To make oppression bitter; or ere this 

I should have fatted all the region kites 

With this slave's offal. Bloody, bawdy villain ! 

Remorseless, treacherous, lecherous, kindless villain I 

O, vengeance ! 

Why, what an ass am I ! This is most brave, 

That I, the son of a dear father murder'd, 

Prompted to my revenge by heaven and hell, 

Must, like a whore, unpack my heart with words, 

And fall a-cursing, like a very drab, 

A scullion ! 

The readiness with which his guilty conscience is 
stirred into activity is again evidenced on the second 
appearance of the Ghost, when Hamlet cries, 

Do you not come your tardy son to chide, 
That, lapsed in time and passion, lets go by 
The important acting of your dread command? 
Oh, say! 

1 How the essence of the Situation is conveyed in these four 


The Ghost at once confirms this misgiving by 

Do not forget: this Visitation 

Is but to whet thy almost blunted purpose. 

In short, the whole picture presented by Hamlet, his 
deep depression, the hopeless note in his attitude towards 
the world and towards the value of life, his dread of 
death, 1 his repeated reference to bad dreams, his self- 
accusations, his desperate efforts to get away from the 
thoughts of his duty, and his vain attempts to find an 
excuse for his procrastination; all this unequivocally points 
to a tortured conscience, to some hidden ground for 
shirking his task, a ground which he dare not or cannot 
avow to himself. We have, therefore, to take up the 
argument again at this point, and to seek for some evidence 
that may serve to bring to light the hidden counter- 

The extensive experience of the psycho-analytic resear- 
ches carried out by Freud and his school during' the 
past quarter of a Century has amply demonstrated that 
certain kinds of mental processes shew a greater tendency 
to be inaccessible to consciousness (put technically, to be 
'repressed') than others. In other words, it is harder for 
a person to realise the existence in his mind of some 
mental trends than it is of others. In order therefore to 

1 Tieck (Dramaturgische Blätter, II, 1826) saw in Hamlet's coward- 
ly fear of death a chief reason for his hesitancy in executing his 
vengeance. How well Shakespeare understood what this fear was like 
may be inferred from Claudio's words in 'Measure for Measure': 

The weariest and most loathed worldly life 

That age, ache, penury and imprisonment 

Can lay on nature is a paradise 

To what we fear of death. 


gain a proper perspective it is necessary briefly to inquire 
into the relative frequency with which various sets of 
mental processes are 'repressecT. Experience shews that 
this can be correlated with the relation between these 
various sets and their degree of compatibility with the 
ideals and Standards accepted by the conscious ego; the 
less compatible they are with these the more likely are 
they to be 'repressed'. As the Standards acceptable to 
consciousness are in a great measure derived from the 
immediate environment, one may formulate the following 
generalisation: those processes are most likely to be 
'repressed' by the individual which are most disapproved 
of by the particular circle of society to whose influence 
he has chiefly been subjected during the period when his 
character was being formed. Biologically stated, this law 
would run: 'That which is unacceptable to the herd 
becomes unacceptable to the individual member', it being 
understood that the term herd is intended here in the 
sense of the particular circle defined above, which is by 
no means necessarily the Community at large. It is for 
this reason that moral, social, ethical or religious tendencies 
are hardly ever 'repressed', for, since the individual 
originally received them from his herd, they can hardly 
ever come into conflict with the dicta of the latter. This 
merely says that a man cannot be ashamed of that which 
he respects; the apparent exceptions to this rule need not 
be here explained. 

The language used in the previous paragraph will 
have indicated that by the term ' repression ' we denote an 
active dynamic process. Thoughts that are 'repressed' are 
actively kept from consciousness by a definite force and 
with the expenditure of more or less mental effort, though 
the person concerned is rarely aware of this. Further, what 
is thus kept from consciousness typically possesses an 


energy of its own; hence our frequent use of such 
expressions as 'trend', 'tendency', etc. A little consideration 
of the genetic aspects of the matter will make it 
comprehensible that the trends most likely to be 'repressed* 
are those belonging to what are called the natural instincts, 
as contrasted with secondarily acquired ones. Loening * 
seems very discerningly to have grasped this, for, in 
commenting on a remark of Kohl er' s to the effect that 
c where a feeling impels us to action or to Omission, it is 
replete with a hundred reasons— with reasons that are 
as light as soap-bubbles, but which through self-deception 
appear to us as highly respectable and compelling motives, 
because they are hugely magnified in the (concave) mirror 
of our own feeling', he writes: 4 but this does not hold 
good, as Kohler and others believe, when we are impelled 
by moral feelings of which reason approves (for these we 
admit to ourselves, they need no excuse), only for feelings 
that arise from our natural ?nan ) those the gratification of 
which is opposed by our reason 1 . It only remains to add 
the obvious corollary that, as the herd unquestionably 
selects from the 'natural* instincts the sexual one on which 
to lay its heaviest ban, so it is the various psycho-sexual 
trends that are most often 'repressed' by the individual. We 
have here the explanation of the clinical experience that 
the more intense and the more obscure is a given case of 
deep mental conflict the more certainly will it be found on 
adequate analysis to centre about a sexual problem, On 
the surface, of course, this does not appear so, for, by 
means of various psychological defensive mechanisms, the 
depression, doubt, despair and other manifestations of the 
conflict are transferred on to more tolerable and permissible 
topics, such as anxiety about worldly success or failure, 

1 Loening: op. cit, S. 245, 246. 



about immortality and the salvation of the soul, philosophical 
considerations about the value of life, the future of the 
world, and so on. 

Bearing these considerations in mind, let us return to 
Hamlet. It should now be evident that the conflict 
hypotheses discussed above, which see Hamlet's conscious 
impulse towards revenge inhibited by an unconscious mis- 
giving of a highly ethical kind, are based on ignorance of 
what actually happens in real life, for misgivings of this 
order belong in fact to the more conscious layers of the 
mind rather than to the deeper, unconscious ones. Hamlet's 
intense self-study would speedily have made him aware of 
any such misgivings and, although he might subsequently 
have ignored them, it would almost certainly have been 
by the aid of some process of rationalisation which would 
have enabled him to deceive himself into believing that 
they were ill-founded; he would in any case have remained 
conscious of the nature of them. We have therefore to 
invert these hypotheses and realise that the positive striving 
for vengeance, the pious task laid on him by his father, 
was to him the moral and social one, the one approved 
of by his consciousness, and that the 'repressed* inhibiting 
striving against the act of vengeance arose in some hidden 
source connected with his more personal, natural instincts.* 
The former striving has already been considered, and 
indeed is manifest in every Speech in which Hamlet debates 
the matter: the second is, from its nature, more obscure 
and has next to be investigated. 

This is perhaps most easily done by inquiring more 
intently into Hamlet* s precise attitude towards the object 
of his vengeance, Claudius, and towards the crimes that 
have to be avenged. These are two: Claudius 1 incest with 
the Queen, and his murder of his brother. Now it is of 
great importance to note the profound difference in Hamlets 


attitude towards these two crimes. Intellectually of course 
he abhors both, but there can be no question as to which 
arouses in him the deeper loathing. Whereas the murder 
of his father evokes in him indignation and a piain recog- 
nition of his obvious duty to avenge it, his mother's guilty 
conduct awakes in him the intensest horror. Furnivall x 
well remarks, in speaking of the Queen, 'Her disgraceful 
adultery and incest, and treason to his noble father' s 
memory, Hamlet has feit in his inmost soul. Compared to 
their ingrain die, Claudius' murder of his father — notwith- 
standing all his protestations — is only a skin-deep stain'. 

Now, in trying to define Hamlet's attitude towards 
his uncle we have to guard against assuming off-hand that 
this is a simple one of mere execration, for there is a 
possibility of complexity arising in the following way: The 
uncle has not merely committed each crime, he has 
committed both crimes, a distinction of considerable 
importance, for the combination of crimes allows the 
admittance of a new factor, produced by the possible 
inter-relation of the two, which prevents the result from 
being simply one of summation. In addition it has to bc 
borne in mind that the perpetrator of the crimes is a 
relative, and an exceedingly near relative. The possible 
inter-relationship of the crimes, and the fact that the 
author of them is an actual member of the family, gives 
scope for a confusion in their influence on Hamlet's mind 
which may be the cause of the very obscurity we are seeking 
to clarify. 

Let us first pursue further the effect on Hamlet of 
his mother's misconduct. Before he even knows that his 
father has been murdered he is in the deepest depression, 
and evidently on account of this misconduct. The connection 

1 Furnivall: Introduction to the Leopold' Shakespeare, p. 72. 


between the two is unmistakable in the monölogue in Act I, 
Sc. 2, in reference to which Furnivall * writes: ( One must 
insist on this, that before any revelation of his father's 
murder is made to Hamlet, before any bürden of revenging 
that murder is laid upon him, he thinks of suicide as a 
welcome means of escape from this fair world of God's, 
made abominable to his diseased and weak imagination by 
his mother's lust, and the dishonour done by her to his 
father's memory'. 

O ! that this too too solid 2 flesh would melt, 
Thaw and resolve itself into a dew; 
Or that the Everlasting had not fix'd 
His canon 'gainst self-slaughter ! O God! O God! 
How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable 
Seem to me all the uses of this world ! 
Fie on 't! O fie! *tis an unweeded garden 
That grows to seed; things rank and gross in nature 
Possess it merely. That it should come to this! 
But two months dead! nay, not so much, not two; 
So excellent a king; that was, to this, 
Hyperion to a satyr; so loving to my mother 
That he might not beteem the winds of heaven 
Visit her face too roughly. Heaven and earth! 
Must I remember? why, she would hang on him, 
As if increase of appetite had grown 
By what it fed on; and yet, within a month — 
Let me not think on 't — Frailty, thy name is woman! 
A little month! or ere those shoes were old 
With which she follow'd my poor father's body, 
Like Niobe, all tears; why she, even she — 

1 Furnivall : op. cit., p. 70. 

2 Dover Wilson {Times Literary Supplement^ May 16, 1918) brings 
forward good reasons for thinking that this word is a misprint for 


God! a beast, that wants discourse of reason, 
Would have mourn'd longer, — married with my uncle, 
My father's brother, but no more like my father 
Than I to Hercules. Within a month? 

Ere yet the salt of most unrighteous tears 

Had left the flushing in her galled eyes, 

She married. O, most wicked speed, to post 

With such dexterity to incestuous sheets! 

It is not nor it cannot come to good; 

But break, my heart, for I must hold my tongue! 

According to Bradley, 1 Hamlet's melancholic disgust 
at life was the cause of his aversion from 'any kind of 
decided action\ His explanation of the whole problem of 
Hamlet is 'the moral shock of the sudden ghastly disclosure 
of his mother's true nature ', 2 and he regards the effect 
of this shock, as depicted in the play, as fully comprehensible» 
He says: 3 ( Is it possible to conceive an experience more 
desolating to a man such as we have seen Hamlet to be; 
and is its result anything but perfectly natural? It brings 
bewildered horror, then loathing, then despair of human 
nature. His whole mind is poisoned . . . A nature morally 
biunter would have feit even so dreadful a revelation less 
keenly. A slower and more limited and positive mind might 
not have extended so widely through the world the disgust 
and disbelief that have entered it.' 

But we can rest satisfied with this seemingly adequate 
explanation of Hamlet's weariness of life only if we accept 
unquestioningly the conventional Standards of the causes of 
deep emotion. Many years ago Connolly, 4 the well-known 

1 Bradley: op. cit, p. 122. 

2 Idem: op. cit, p. 117. 

3 Idem: op. cit., p. 119. 

4 Connolly: A Study of Hamlet, 1863, pp. 22, 23. 


psychiatrist, pointed out the disproportion here existing 
between cause and effect and gave as his opinion 
that Hamlet's reaction to his mother's marriage indicated 
in itself a mental instability, 'a predisposition to actual 
unsoundness ' ; he writes: 'The circumstances are not such 
as would at once turn a healthy mind to the contemplation 
of suicide, the last resource of those whose reason has 
been overwhelmed by calamity and despair.' We have 
unveiled only the exciting cause, not the predisposing 
cause. The very fact that Hamlet is content with the 
explanation arouses our grave suspicions, for, as will 
presently be expounded, from the very nature of the 
emotion he cannot be aware of the true cause of it. If 
we ask, not what ought to produce such soul-paralysing 
grief and distaste for life, but what in actual fact does 
produce it, we are compelled to go beyond this 
explanation and seek for some deeper cause. In real life 
speedy second marriages occur commonly enough without 
leading to any such result as is here depicted, and when 
we see them followed by this result we invariably find, if 
the opportunity for an analysis of the subject's mind 
presents itself, that there is some other and more hidden 
reason why the event is followed by this inordinately great 
effect. The reason always is that the event has awakened 
to increased activity mental processes that have been 
'repressed' from the subject's consciousness. His mind 
has been specially prepared for the catastrophe by 
previous mental processes with which those directly 
resulting from the event have entered into association. This 
is perhaps what Furnivall means when he speaks of the 
world being made abominable to Hamlet's 'diseased 
imagination 1 . In short, the special nature of the reaction 
presupposes some special feature in the mental predis- 
position. Bradley himself has to qualify his hypothesis by 


inserting the words 'to a man such as we have seen 
Hamlet to be\ 

Those who have devoted much time to the study of 
such conditions will recognise the self-description given in 
this monologue as a wonderfully accurate picture of a partic- 
ular mental State which is often loosely and incorrectly 
classified under the name of 'neurasthenia'. l Analysis 
of such states always reveals the operative activity 
of some forgotten group of mental processes, which 
on account of their unacceptable nature have been 
'repressecT from the subject's consciousness. Therefore if 
Hamlet has been plunged into this abnormal State by the 
news of his mother's second marriage it must be because 
the news has awakened into activity some slumbering 
memory of an associated kind, which is so painful that it 
may not become conscious. 

1 Hamlet's State of mind more accurately corresponds, as Freud 
has pointed out, with that characteristic of a certain form of hysteria. 

In the past this little problem in clinical diagnosis seems to have 
greatly exercised psychiatrists. Rosner (Shakespeare's Hamlet im Lichte 
der Neuropathologie, 1895) described Hamlet as hystero-neurasthenic, a 
view sharply criticised by Rubinstein (op. cit.) and Landmann (Zeitschr. 
für Psychologie, 1896, Bd. XI). 

Kellog (Shakespeare's Delineations of Insanity, 1866), de ßoismon 
(Annales me'dico-psychologiques, 1868, 4c ser., I2e. fasc), Hensc (Jahr- 
buch der deutschen Shakespeare-Gesellschaft, 1876, Jahrg. XIII), Nicholson 
(Trans. New Shakespeare Society, 1880-85, Part II) and Laehr 
(Die Darstellung krankhafter Geisteszustände in Shakespeare's Dramen, 
1898) hold ,that Hamlet was suffering from melancholia, a conclusion 
rejected by Ominus (Rev. des deux Mondes, 1876, 3c ser., 14c fasc). 
Laehr (op. cit., S. 179 and elsewhere) has a particularly ingenious 
hypothesis which maintains that Shakespeare, having taken over the 
Ghost episode from the old saga, was obliged to depict Hamlet as a 
melancholic, because this was theatrically the most presentable form of 
insanity in which hallucinations occur* 

Thierisch (Nord und Süd, 1878, Bd. VI) and Sigismund (Jahr- 
buch der deutschen Shakespeare-Gesellschaft, 1879, Jahrg. XVI) also 
hold that Hamlet was insane, without particularising the form of insanity. 


For some deep-seated reason, which is to him 
unacceptable, Hamlet is plunged into anguish at the thought 
of his father being replaced in his mother's affections by 
someone eise. It is as though his devotion to his mother had 
made him so jealous for her affection that he had found it hard 
enough to share this even with his father and could not endure 
to share it with still another man. Against this thought, 
however, suggestive as it is, may be urged three objections, 
First, if it were in itself a füll statement of the matter, 
Hamlet would have been aware of the jealousy, whereas 
we have concluded that the mental process we are seeking 
is hidden from him. Secondly, we see in it no evidence 
of the arousing of an old and forgotten memory. And, 
thirdly, Hamlet is being deprived by Claudius of no greater 
share in the Queen's affection than he had been by his 
own father, for the two brothers made exactly similar 
Claims in this respect — namely, those of a loved husband. 
The last-named objection, however, leads us to the heart 
of the Situation. How if, in fact, Hamlet had in years gone 
by, as a child, bitterly resented having had to share his 
mother's affection even with his own father, had regarded 
him as a rival, and had secretly wished him out of the 
way so that he might enjoy undisputed and undisturbed 
the monopoly of that affection ? II such thoughts had been 
present in his mind in childhood days they evidently 
would have been 'repressed', and all traces of them 
obliterated, by filial piety and other educative influences. 
The actual realisation of his early wish in the death of 
his father at the hands of a jealous rival would then have 
stimulated into activity these 'repressed' mtfmories, which 
would have produced, in the form of depression and other 
suffering, an obscure aftermath of his childhood's conflict. 
This is at all events the mechanism that is actually found. 
in the real Hamlets who are investigated psychologically. 



I am aware that those Shakespearean critics who 
have enjoyed no special opportunities for penetrating into 
the obscurer aspects of mental activities, and who base 
their views of human motive on the surface valuation given 
by the agents themselves — to whom all conduct whether 
good or bad at all events Springs from purely conscious 
sources — are likely to regard the Suggestion put forward 
above as merely constituting one more of the extravagant 
and fanciful hypotheses of which the Hamlet literature in 
particular is so replete. For the sake, however, of those 
who may be interested to apprehend the point of view 
from which thig stränge hypothesis seems probable I feel 
constrained to interpolate a few considerations on two 
matters that are not at all commonly appreciated at their 
true importance — namely, a child's feelings of jealousy and 
his ideas on the subject of death. 

The whole subject of jealousy in children is so cloud- 
ed over with prejudice that even well-known facts are 
either ignored or are not estimated at their true signif- 
icance. Stanley Hall, for instance, in his encyclopaedic 
treatise, makes a number of very just remarks on the 
importance of the subject in adolescence, but implies that 
before the age of puberty this passion is of relatively 
little consequence. It was reserved for the genetic studies 
of psycho-analytic research to demonstrate the lasting and 
profound influence that infantile jealousies may have upon 
later character reactions and upon the jvhöle course of a 
persona life. l 

1 A recent example of this is afforded by J. C. Flügel's study: 
' On the Character and Married Life of Henry VIII, ' Internat, Journ. of 
Psycho- An alysis, 1920, Vol. I, p. 24. See also his valuable work on The 
Psycho-Analytic Study of the Family (No. 3 of the Internat. Psycho- 
Analytical Library, 1921). 


The close relation between adult jealousy and the 
desire for the removal of the rival by the most effective means, 
that of death, and also the common process of suppression of 
such feelings, is clearly illustrated in a remark of Stanley 
Hall's 1 to the effect that 'Many a noble and even great 
man has confessed that mingled with profound grief for 
the death and misfortune of their best friends, they were 
often appalled to find a vein of secret joy and satisfaction, 
as if their own sphere were larger or better. ' He has 
doubtless in mind such passages as the following from La 
Rochefoucauld: 'Dans Tadversite de nos meilleurs amis, il 
y a quelque chose qui ne nous deplait pas.' A similar 
thought is more openly expressed by Bernard Shaw 2 when 
he makes Don Juan, in the Hell Scene, remark: *You 
may remember that on earth — though of course we 
never confessed it — the death of any one we knew, 
even those we liked best, was always mingled with a 
certain satisfaction at being finally done with them. ' Such 
cynicism in the adult is exceeded to an incomparable 
extent by that of the child, with its notorious, and to the 
parents often heartbreaking, egotism, with its undeveloped 
social instincts, and with its ignorance of the dread signif- 
icance of death. A child very often unreasoningly inter- 
prets the various encroachments on its Privileges, and the 
obstacles interposed to the immediate gratification of its 
desires, as meaningless cruelty, and the more imperative 
is the desire that has been thwarted the more pronounced 
is the hostility towards the agent of this supposed cruelty, 
most often of course a parent. The most important encroach- 
ment, and the most frequent, is that made on the 
child's desire for affection. The resulting hostility is very 
often seen on the occasion of the birth of a subsequent 

1 Stanley Hall: Adolescence, 1908, Vol. I, p. 358. 

2 Bernard Shaw: Man and Superman, 1903, p. 94. 


child, and is usually regarded with amusement as an added 
contribution to the general gaiety called forth by the 
happy event. When a child, on being told that the doctor 
has brought him another playfellow, responds with the 
cry 'Teil him to take it away again', he intends this, 
however, not, as is commonly believed, as a joke for the 
entertainment of his eiders, but as an earnest expression 
of his intuition that in future he will have to renounce 
his previously unquestioned pre-eminence in the family 
circle, a matter that to him is serious enough. 

The second point, on which there is also much 
misunderstanding, is that of the child's attitude toward the 
subject of death, it being commonly assumed that this 
is necessarily the same as that of an adult. When a child 
first hears of anyone's death, the only part of its meaning 
that he realises is that the person is no longer there r 
a consummation which time and again he has fervently 
desired when being interfered with by the persons around 
him. It is only gradually that the grimmer implications of 
the phenomenon are borne in upon him. When, therefore, 
a child expresses the wish that a given person, even 
a near relative, would die, our feelings would not be so 
shocked as they sometimes are, were we to interpret the 
wish from the point of view of the child. The same remark 
applies to the dreams of adults in which the death of 
a near and dear relative takes place, dreams in which the 
underlying repressed wish is usually concealed by an 
emotion of grief. But on the other hand the significance 
of these death-wishes is not to be under-estimated, either, 
for the later conflicts they may give rise to can be of 
the utmost importance for the person's mental welfare, 
and this in spite of the fact that in the vast majority of 
cases they remain merely wishes. Not that they always 
remain wishes, even in children. Some years ago (in two 


editorial articles entitled ( Infant Murderers' in the British 
Journal of Children s Diseases } Nov. 1904, p. 510, and 
June 1905, p. 270) I collected a series of murders com- 
mitted by jealous young children, and, referring to the 
constant occurrence of jealousy between children in the 
same family, pointed out the possible dangers arising from 
the imperfect realisation by children of the significance 
of death. 

Of the infantile jealousies the most important, and the 
one with which we are here occupied, is that experienced 
by a boy towards his father. The precise form of early 
relationship between child and father is in general a matter 
of vast importance in both sexes and plays a predominat- 
ing part in the future development of the child's character; 
the theme has been expounded in an interesting essay by 
Jung, x where he gives it its due importance, though to 
the one-sided exclusion of the mother's influence. The 
only aspect that at present concerns us is the resentment 
feit by a boy towards his father when the latter disturbs, 
as he necessarily must, his enjoyment of his mother's exclusive 
affection. This feeling is the deepest source of the world-old 
conflict between father and son, between the younger and the 
older generation, the favourite theme of so many poets and 
writers, the central motif of most mythologies and religions. 
The fundamental importance that this conflict, and the 
accompanying breaking away of the child from the author- 
ity of his parents, has both for the individual and for 
society is clearly stated in the following passage of Freud's: 2 
4 The detachment of the growing individual from the autho- 
rity of the parents is one of the most necessary, but also 

1 Jung: 'Die Bedeutung des Vaters für das Schicksal des 
Einzelnen', Jahrb.f.psychoanalyt.u.psyckopathoL Forschungen, 1909, Bd. I. 

2 Personal communication quoted by Rank: Der Mythus von der 
«Geburt des Helden, 1909, S. 64. 


one of the most painful, achievements of development. It 
is absolutely necessary for it to be 'carried out, and we 
may assume that every normal human being has to a 
certain extent managed to achieve it. Indeed, the progress 
of society depends in general on this Opposition of the 
two generations.' 

It was Freud 1 who first demonstrated, when dealing 
with the subject of the earliest manifestations of the sexual 
instinct in children, that the conflict rests in the last resort 
on sexual grounds. He has shewn 2 that this instinct does 
not, as is generally supposed, differ from other biological 
functions by suddenly leaping into being at the age of 
puberty in all its füll and developed activity, but that like 
other functions it undergoes a gradual evolution and only 
slowly attains the particular form in which we know it in 
the adult. A child has to learn how to love just as it has 
to learn how to walk, although the former function is so 
much more intricate and delicate in its adjustment than 
the latter that the development of it is a correspondingly 
slower and more involved process. The earliest sexual 
manifestations are so palpably unadapted to what is gener- 
ally considered to be the ultimate aim of the function, 
and are so general and tentative in contrast with the 
relative precision of the later ones, that the sexual nature 
of them is commonly not recognised at all. 

This important theme cannot be further pursued here, 
but it must be mentioned how frequently these earliest 
dim awakenings are evoked by the intimate physical rela- 
tions existing between the child and the persons of his 

1 Freud: Die Traumdeutung, 1900, S. 1 76-80. He has strikingly 
illustrated the subject in a detailed study of a young boy: * Analyse der 
Phobie eines fünfjährigen Knaben', Jahrb. f. psychocmalyt. u. psycho- 
pathoL Forschungen, 1909, Bd. I. 

2 Freud: Drei Abhandlungen zur Sexualtheorie, 4. Aufl, 1920. 


immediate environment, above all, therefore, his mother. 
There is a considerable variability in both the date and 
the intensity of these early sexual impressions, this depend- 
ing partly on the boy's Constitution and partly on the 
mother's. When the attraction exercised by the mother is 
excessive it may exert a Controlling influence over the 
boy's later destiny; a mass of evidence in dernonstration 
of this, too extensive to refer to in detail, has been 
published in the psycho-analytical literature. Of the various 
results that may be caused by the complicated interaction 
between this influence and others only one or two need 
be mentioned. If the awakened passion undergoes an 
insufficient Depression' — an event most frequent when 
the mother is a widow — then the boy may remain 
throughout life abnormally attached to his mother and unable 
to love any other woman, a not uncommon cause of 
bachelorhood. He may be gradually weaned from the 
attachment if it is less strong, though it often happens 
that the weaning is incomplete so that he is able to fall 
in love only with women who in some way resemble the 
mother; the latter occurrence is a frequent cause of 
marriage between relatives, as has been interestingly poin- 
ted out by Abraham. 1 The maternal influence may also 
manifest itself by imparting a strikingly tender feminine 
side to the later character. 2 When, on the other hand, 

1 Abraham: * Verwandtenehe und Neurose', Neurologisches Zentral- 
blatt, 1908, S. 11 50. 

2 This trait in Hamlet's character has often been the subject of 
comment. See especially Bodensted: Hamlet', Westemianns Illustrierte 
Monatshefte, 1865; Vining's Suggestion that Hamlet really was a woman 
has been mentioned earlier in the present essay. That the same trait 
was a prominent one of Shakespeare's himself is well known (see, for 
instance, Bradley's works), a fact which the appellation of 'Gentle WilP 
suffkiently recalls; Harris (op. cit, p. 273) even writes: 'Whenever we 
get under the skin, it is Shakespeare's femininity which startles us,* 


the aroused feeling is intensely 'repressed* and associated 
with shame, guilt, and similar reactions the submergence 
may be so complete as to render the person incapable of 
experiencing any feeling at all of attraction for the opposite 
sex; to him all women are as forbidden as his mother. 
This may declare itself in pronounced misogyny or even, 
when combined with other factors, in actual homosexuality, 
as Sadger 1 has shewn. 

The attitude towards the successful rival, namely 
the father, also varies with — among other factors — the 
extent to which the aroused feelings have been ( repressed\ 
If this is only slight, then the natural resentment againsl: 
the father may be more or less openly manifested later on, 
a rebellion which occurs commonly enough, though the 
true meaning of it is not recognised. To this source 
many social revolutionaries — perhaps all — owe the original 
impetus of their rebelliousness against authority, as can 
often be plainly traced — for instance, with Shelley and 
Mirabeau. 2 The unimpeded train of thought in the uncons- 
cious logically culminates in the idea, or rather the wish, 
that the father (or his Substitute) may disappear from the 
scene, i. e. that he may die. Shakespeare himself provides 
a good example of this (King Henry IV, Part II) in the 
scene between the dying king and his son: 

Prince Henry. I never thought to hear you speak again. 
King Henry. Thy wish was father, Harry, to that thought. 

If, on the other hand, the Depression ' is considerable, then 
the hostility towards the father will be correspondingly 

1 Sadger: * Fragment der Psychoanalyse eines Homosexuellen', 
Jahrb. f sex. Zwischenstufen, 1908, Bd. IX; 'Ist die konträre Sexual- 
empfindung heilbar?', Zeitschr. f. Sexualwissenschaft, Dez. 1908; 'Zur 
Aetiologie der konträren Sexualempfindung', Mediz. Klinik, 1909, Nr. 2. 

2 See Witteis: Tragische Motive, 191 1, S. 153. 


concealed from consciousness; this is usually accompanied 
by the development of the opposite sentiment, namely of 
an exaggerated regard and respect for him, and a morbid 
solicitude for his welfare, which completely cover the true 
underlying relationship. 

The complete expression of the 'repressed' wish is not 
only that the father should die, but that the son should 
then espouse the mother. This was openly expressed by 
Diderot in speaking of boys : ' If we were left to ourselves 
and if our bodily strength only came up to that of our 
phantasy we would wring our fathers' necks and sleep with 
our rnothers. ' The attitude of son to parents is so trans- 
picuously illustrated in the Oedipus legend, 1 as developed 
for instance in Sophocles* tragedy, that the group of mental 
processes in question is generally known under the name 
of the ' Oedipus-complex \ 

We are now in a position to expand and complete 
the suggestions offered above in connection with the Hamlet 
problem. 2 The story thus interpreted would run somewhat 
as follows. 

As a child Hamlet had experienced the wärmest affection 
for his mother, and this, as is always so, had contained 
elements of a disguised erotic quality. The presence of 

1 See Freud: Die Traumdeutung 1900, S. 181. Valuable expositions 
of the mythological aspects of the subject are given by Abraham, Traum 
und Mythus, 1909, and Rank, op. cit. Rank has also worked through 
in great detail the various ways in which the same theme is made use 
of in literature: Das Inzest-Motiv in Dichtung und Sage, 191 2, especially 
Kap. VIII which contains an excellent analysis of the Oedipus legend. 

2 Here, as throughout this essay, I closely follow Freud' s Inter- 
pretation given in the footnote previously referred to. He there points 
out the inadequacy of the earlier explanations, deals with Hamlet's 
feelings toward his mother, father, and uncle, and mentions two other 
matters that will presently be discussed, the significance of Hamlet's 
reaction against Ophelia and of the probability that the play was written 
immediately after the death of Shakespeare's own father. 


two traits in the Queen's character go to corroborate this 
assumption, namely her markedly sensual nature and her 
passionate fondness for her son. The former is indicated 
in too many places in the play to need specific reference, 
and is generally recognised. The latter is also manifest; 
Claudius says, for instance (Act IV, Sc. 7), ( The Queen 
his mother lives almost by his looks\ Nevertheless Hamlet 
seems to have with more or less success weaned himself 
from her and to have fallen in love with Ophelia. The 
precise nature of his original feeling for Ophelia is a little 
obscure. We may assume that at least in part it was composed 
of a normal love for a prospective bride, though the extrav- 
agance of the language used (the passionate need for 
absolute certainty, etc.) suggests a somcwhat morbid frame 
of mind. There are indications that even here the influence 
of the old attraction for the mother is still exerting itself. 
Although some writers, following Goethe, 1 see in Ophelia 
many traits of resemblance to the Queen, surely more striking 
are the traits contrasting with those of the Queen. Whatever 
truth there may be in the many German conceptions of 
Ophelia as a sensual wanton 2 — misconceptions that have 
been confuted by Loening a and others — still the very fact 
that it needed what Goethe happily called the ( innocence of 
insanity ' to reveal the presence of any such libidinous though ts 
demonstrates in itself the modesty and chasteness of her 
habitual demeanour. Her naive piety, her obedient resignation 
and her unreflecting simplicity sharply contrast with the 

1 Goethe: Wilhelm Meister, IV, 14. 'Her whole being hovers in 
ripe, sweet voluptuousness \ 'Her fancy is moved, her quiet modesty 
breathes loving desire, and should the gentle Go ddess Opportunity shake 
the tree the fruit would at once fall'. 

2 For instance, Storffrich : Psycholo gische Aufschlüsse über Shake- 
speares Hamlet, 1859, S. 131; Dietrich, op. cit., S. 129; Tieck, Drama- 
turgische Blätter, II, S. 85, etc. 

8 Loening: op. cit, Cap. XIII. 'Charakter' und Liebe Ophelias. 


Queen's character, and seem to indicate that Hamlet by a 
characteristic reaction towards the opposite extreme had 
unknowingly been impelled to choose a woman who should 
least remind him of his mother. A case might even be 
made out for the view that part of his courtship originated 
not so much in direct attraction for Ophelia as in an 
unconscious desire to play her off against his mother, just 
as a disappointed and piqued lover so often has resort to 
the arms of a more willing rival. It would be hard 
otherwise to understand the readiness with which he later 
throws himself into this part. When, for instance, in the 
play scene he replies to his mother's request to sit by 
her with the words 'No, good mother, here's metal more 
attractive' and proceeds to He at Ophelia's feet, we seem 
to have a direct indication of this attitude; and his coarse 
familiarity and bandying of ambiguous jests with the woman 
he has recently so ruthlessly jilted are hardly intelligible 
unless we bear in mind that they were carried out under 
the heedful gaze of the Queen. It is as though his 
unconscious were trying to convey to her the following 
thought: 4 You give yourself to other men whom you 
prefer to me. Let me assure you that I can dispense with 
your favours and even prefer those of a woman whom I 
no longer love.' His extraordinary outburst of bawdiness 
on this occasion, so unexpected in a man of obviously 
fine feeling, points unequivocally to the sexual nature of 
the underlying turmoil. 

Now comes the father's death and the mother's second 
marriage. The association of the idea of sexuality with his 
mother, buried since infancy, can no longer be concealed 
from his consciousness. As Bradley 1 well says: 'Her son 
was forced to see in her action not only an astounding 
shallowness of feeling, but an eruption of coarse sensuality, 

1 Bradley. op. cit, p. 118» 


"rank and gross, " speeding post-haste to its horrible 
delight\ Feelings which once, in the infancy of long ago, 
were pleasurable desires can now, because of his repressions, 
only fill him with repulsion. The long 'repressed' desire 
to take his father's place in his mother's affection is 
stimulated to unconscious activity by the sight of someone 
usurping this place exactly as he himself had once longed 
to do. More, this someone was a member of the same family, 
so that the actual Usurpation further resembled the 
imaginary one in being incestuous. Without his being in 
the least aware of it these ancient desires are ringing in 
his mind, are once more struggling to find conscious ex~ 
pression, and need such an expenditure of energy again 
to 'repress' them that he is reduced to the deplorable 
mental State he himself so vividly depicts. 

There follows the Ghost's announcement that the 
father's death was a willed one, was due to murder. 
Hamlet, having at the moment his mind filled with natural 
indignation at the news, answers normally enough with the 
cry (Act. I, Sc. 5): 

Haste me to know 't, that I, with wings as swift 
As meditation or the thoughts of love, 
May sweep to my revenge. 

The momentous words follow revealing who was the 
guilty person, namely a relative who had committed the 
deed at the bidding of lust. 1 Hamlet's second guilty wish 
had thus also been realised by his uncle, namely to pro- 
cure the fulfilment of the first — the possession of the 
mother — by a personal deed, in fact by murder of the 
father. The two recent events, the father's death and the 

1 It is not maintained that this was by any means Claudius' whole 
motive, but it was evidently a powerful one and the one that most 
impressed Hamlet. 


mother's second marriage, seemed to the world to have 
no inner causal relation to each other, but they represented 
ideas which in Hamlet's unconscious fantasy had for many 
years been closely associated. These ideas now in a moment 
forced their way to conscious recognition in spite of all 
( repressing forces', and found immediate expression in his 
almost reflex cry: ( my prophetic soul! My uncle?'. The 
frightful truth his unconscious had already intuitively divined 
his consciousness had now to assimilate, as best it could. 
For the rest of the interview Hamlet is stunned by the 
effect of the internal conflict thus re-awakened, which 
from now on never ceases, and into the essential nature 
of which he never penetrates. 

One of the first manifestations of the awakening ot 
the old conflict in Hamlets mind is his reaction against 
Ophelia. This is doubly conditioned, by the two opposing 
attitudes in his own mind. In the first place, there is a 
complex reaction in regard to his mother. As was explained 
above, the being forced to connect the thought of his 
mother with sensuality leads to an intense sexual revulsion, 
one that is only temporarily broken down by the coarse 
outburst discussed above. Combined with this is a fierce 
jealousy, unconscious because of its forbidden origin, at 
the sight of her giving herseif to another man, a man 
whom he had no reason whatever either to love or to 
respect. Consciously this is allowed to express itself, for 
instance after the prayer scene, only in the form of extreme 
resentment and bitter reproaches against her. His resentment 
against women is still further inflamed by the hypocrit- 
ical prudishness with which Ophelia follows her father and 
brother in seeing evil in his natural affection, an attitude 
which poisons his love in exactly the same way that the 
love of his childhood, like that of all children, must have 
been poisoned. He can forgive a woman neither her 


rejection of his sexual advances nor, still less, her alliance 
with another man. Most intolerable of all to him, as 
Bradley well remarks, is the sight of sensuality in a quarter 
from which he had trained himself ever since infancy 
rigorously to exclude it. The total reaction culminates in the 
bitter misogyny of his outburst against Ophelia, who is devast- 
ated at having to bear a reaction so wholly out of proportion 
to her own offence and has no idea that in reviling her Hamlet 
is really expressing his bitter resentment against his mother. 1 
4 I have heard of your paintings too, well enough; 
God has given you one face, and you make yourselves 
another; you jig, you amble, and you lisp, and nickname 
God's creatures, and make your wantonness your ignorance. 
Go to, TU no more on't; it hath made me mad' (Act III r 
Sc. 1). On only one occasion does he for a moment escape 
from the sordid implication with which his love has been 
impregnated and achieve a healthier attitude toward 
Ophelia, namely at the open grave when in remorse he 
breaks out at Laertes for presuming to pretend that his 
feeling for her could ever equal that of her lover. 

The intensity of Hamlet's repulsion against woman in 
general, and Ophelia in particular, is a measure of the 
powerful Depression ' to which his sexual feelings are being 
subjected. The outlet for those feelings in the direction 
of his mother has always been firmly dammed, and now 
that the narrower Channel in Ophelia's direction has also 
been closed the increase in the original direction 

1 His similar tone and advice to the two women shew plainly 
how closely they are identified in his mind. Cp. *Get thee to a nun- 
nery : why wouldst thou be a breeder of sinners ' (Act III, Sc. 2) with 
* Refrain to-night; And that shall lend a kind of easiness To the next 
abstinence' (Act III, Sc. 4). 

The identification is further demonstrated in the course of the 
play by Hamlet's killing the men who stand between him and these 
women (Claudius and IJelonius). 


consequent on the awakening of early memories tasks all 
his energy to maintain the 'repression/ His pent up feelings 
find a partial vent in other directions. The petulant irascib- 
ility and explosive outbursts called forth by his vexation at 
the hands of Guildenstern and Rosencrantz, and especially of 
Polonius, are evidently to be interpreted in this way, as also 
is in part the burning nature of his reproaches to his mother. 
Indeed towards the end of his interview with his mother 
the thought of her misconduct expresses itself in that 
almost physical disgust which is so characteristic a mani- 
festation of intensely 'repressed' sexual feeling. 

Let the bloat king tempt you again to bed; 
Pinch wanton on your cheek; call you his mouse; 
And let him, for a pair of reechy kisses, 
Or paddling in your neck with his damnd fingers, 
Make you to ravel all this matter out, (Act III, Sc. 4) 

Hamlet's attitude towards Polonius is highly instruc- 
tive. Here the absence of family tie and of other similar 
influences enables him to indulge to a relatively unrestrained 
extent his hostility towards the prating and sententious 
dotard. The analogy he effects between Polonius and 
Jephthah 1 is in this connection especially pointed. It is 
here that we see his fundamental attitude towards moralis- 
ing eiders who use their power to thwart the happiness 
of the young, and not in the over-drawn and melodramatic 
portrait in which he delineates his father: ( A combination 
and a form indeed, where every god did seem to set his 
seal to give the world assurance of a man/ 

1 What Shakespeare thought of Jephthah's behaviour towards his 
daughter may be gathered from a reference in Henry VI, Part III, 
Act V, Sc. 1. See also on this subject Wordsworth: On Shakespeare's 
Knowledge and Use of the Bible, 1864, p. 67. 


It will be seen from the foregoing that Hamlet's 
attitude towards his uncle-father is far more complex than 
is generally supposed. He of course detests him, but it is 
the jealous detestation of one evil-doer towards his 
successful fellow. Much as he hates him, he can never 
denounce him with the ardent indignation that boils straight 
from his blood when he reproaches his mother, for the 
more vigorously he denounces his uncle the more power- 
fully does he stimulate to activity his own unconscious and 
repressed' complexes. He is therefore in a dilemma between 
on the one hand allowing his natural detestation of his 
uncle to have free play, a consummation w r hich would stir 
still further his own horrible wishes, and on the other 
hand ignoring the imperative call for the vcngeance that 
his obvious duty demands. His own evil prevents him 
from completely denouncing his uncle's, and in continuing 
to 'repress' the former he must strive to ignore, to con- 
done, and if possible even to forget the latter; his moräl 
fate is bound up with his uncle 's for good or HL In reality 
his uncle incorporates the deepest and most buried part 
of his own personality, so that he cannot kill him without 
also killing himself. This Solution, one closely akin to what 
Freud 1 has shewn to be the motive of suicide in melancholia, 
is actually the one that Hamlet finally adopts. The course 
of alternate action and inaction that he embarks on, and 
the provocations he gives to his suspicious uncle^ can lead 
to no other end than to his own ruin and, incidentally, to 
that of his uncle. Only when he has made the final sacrifice 
and brought himself to the door of death is he free to 
fulfil his duty, to avenge his father, and to slay his other 
seif — his uncle. 

1 Freud: ' Trauer und Melancholie', Vierte Sammlung kleiner 
Schriften, 191 8, Kap. XX. 


There is a second reason why the call of duty to 
kill his step-father cannot be obeyed, and that is because 
it links itself with the unconscious call of his nature to 
kill his mother's husband, whether this is the first or the 
second; the absolute Depression ' of the former impulse 
involves the inner prohibition of the latter also. It is no 
chance that Hamlet says of himself that he is prompted 
to his revenge ( by heaven and hell'. 

In this discussion of the motives that move or restrain 
Hamlet we have purposely depreciated the subsidiary ones, 
which also play a part, so as to bring out in greater 
relief the deeper and effective ones that are of prepon- 
derating importance. These, as we have seen, spring from 
sources of which he is quite unaware, and we might 
summarise the internal conflict of which he is the victim 
as consisting in a struggle of the 'repressed' mental processes 
to become conscious. The call of duty, which automatically 
arouses to activity these unconscious processes, conflicts 
with the necessity of 'repressing* them still more strongly; 
for the more urgent is the need for external action the 
greater is the effort demanded of the 'repressing' forces. 
Action is paralysed at its very inception, and there is thus 
produced the picture of apparently causeless inhibition 
which is so inexplicable both to Hamlet * and to readers 

1 The Situation is perfectly depicted by Hamlet in his cry 
(Act IV, Sc. 4): 

I do not know 
Why yet I live to say 'this thing's to do', 
Sith I have cause, and will, and strength, and means, 
To do't 
With greater insight he could have replaced the word 'will* by 
'pious wish', which as Loening (op. cit, S. 246) points out, it obviously 
means. Curiously enough, Rolfe (op. cit, p. 23) quotes this very passage 
in support of Werder's hypothesis that Hamlet was inhibited by the 
thought of the external difficulties of the Situation, which shews the 
straits the supporters of this untenable hypothesis are driven to. 


of the play. This paralysis arises, however, not from 
physical or moral cowardice, but from that intellectual 
cowardice, that reluctance to dare the exploration of his 
inner soul, which Hamlet shares with the rest of the 
human race. ( Thus conscience does make cowards of 
us all; 


We have finally to return to the subject with which 
we started, namely poetic creation, and in this connection 
to inquire into the relation of Hamlet's conflict to the 
inner workings of Shakespeare's mind) It is here maintained 
that this conflict is an echo of a similar one in Shakespeare 
himself, as to a greater or lesser extent with all men. As 
was remarked earlier in this essay, the view that Shake- 
speare depicted in Hamlet the most important part of his 
own inner seif is a wide-spread and doubtless a correct 
one. * Bradley, 2 who says that in Hamlet Shakespeare 
wrote down his own heart, makes the interesting comment: 
'We do not feel that the problems presented to most of 
the tragic heroes could have been fatal to Shakespeare 
himself. The immense breadth and clearness of his intellect 
would have saved him from the fate of Othello, Troilus, 
or Anthony. We do feel, I think, and he himself may 
have feit, that he could not have coped with Hamlet's 
problem. 1 It is, therefore, as much beside the point to 
inquire into Shakespeare's conscious intention, möral, 
political or otherwise, in the play as it is with most works 
of genius. The play is simply the form in which his deepest, 

1 See especially Döring: Shakespeare's Hamlet seinem Grund- 
gedanken und Inhalte nach erläutert, 1865; Taine : Histoire de la 
litterature anglaise, 1866, t. II, p. 254; Vischer: Altes und Neues, 1882, 
Heft 3; Hermann: Ergänzungen und Berichtigungen der hergebrachten 
Shakespeare-Biographie, 1884. 

3 Bradley: Oxford Lectures on Poetry, 1909, p. 357. 


unconscious feelings find their spontaneous expression, 
without any inquiry being possible on his part as to the 
essential nature or source of those feelings. 

It is, of course, probable that in writing the play 
Shakespeare was not only inspired from the personal and 
intimate sources \ve have indicated, but was also influenced 
by his actual conscious experiences. For instance, there 
is reason to suppose that in painting the character of 
Hamlet he had in mind some of his contemporaries, 
notably William Herbert, later Lord Pembroke, x and 
Robert Earl of Essex. 2 Some authors 3 have provided us 
with complete schemes indicating exactly which contemp- 
orary figures they surmise to be mirrored in each one in 
the play. The repeated allusion to the danger of Ophelias 
conceiving illegitimately may be connected with both 
Herbert, who was imprisoned for being the father of an 
illegitimate child, and the poet himself, who hastily married 
to avoid the same stigma. Frank Harris, 4 following iip Tyler's 
suggestions 5 concerning the poet's relations to Mary Fitton, 
has persuasively expounded the view that Shakespeare 
wrote 'Hamlet' as a reaction against his deep disappointment 
at being betrayed by his friend Herbert. Many of Harris' 
suggestions are easily to be reconciled with the theory 
here advanced. The following passage, for instance, may 
be quoted : ° 4 Why did Hamlet hate his mother's lechery ? 
Most men would hardly have condemned it, certainly 
would not have suffered their thoughts to dwell on it 

1 Döring: Hamlet, 1898, S. 35. 

2 Isaac: ' Hamlet' s Familie', Shakespeare 1 's Jahrbuch, Bd. XVI, 
S. 274. 

3 For instance, French: Shakespeareana Genealogica, 1869, p. 301. 

4 Harris: op. cit. See also his Shakespeare and His Love, 1910, 
and The Women of Shakespeare, 191 1. 

5 Tyler: Shakespeare's Sonnets, 1890. 

* Harris: The Man Shakespeare, 1909, p. 269. 


beyond the moment; l but to Hamlet his mother's faith- 
lessness was horrible, shameful, degrading, simply because 
Hamlet-Shakespeare had identified her with Miss Fitton> 
and it was Miss Fittons faithlessness, it was her deception 
he was condemning in the bitterest words he could find. 
He thus gets into a somewhat unreal tragedy, a passionate 
intensity which is otherwise wholly inexplicable. , Indeed, 
Harris eonsiders 2 that ( Shakespeare owes the greater part 
of his renown to Mary Fitton \ As is well known, the 
whole Mary Fitton story rests on a somewhat slender 
basis, but it is certainly reasonable to suppose that if 
Shakespeare had passed through such an experience it 
would have affected him very deeply because of his peculiar 
sensitiveness to it; one cannot forget that it was he who 
wrote 'Othello'. If, therefore, there is any historical truth 
in Harris' suggestions we should have an excellent example 
of what Freud has termed 'over-determination', that is to 
say, the action of two mental impulses in the same 
direction. It was pointed out above that Hamlet's excessive 
reaction to his mother's conduct needed some other 
explanation than the mere fact of this conduct, but if 
part of this excess arose from Shakespeare's feeling about 
Miss Fitton, 3 part of it arose from a deeper source still. 
Behind Queen Gertrude may stand Mary Fitton, but behind 
Mary Fitton certainly Stands Shakespeare's mother. • 

Much light is thrown on our subject by an historical 
study of the circumstances under which the play arose, 

1 In their judgements on this point how much nearer Bradley is 
than Harris to the fount of feeling. 

2 Harris: op. cit, p. 231. 

8 The fact is certainly noteworthy 'that throughout the great 
tragic period of Shakespeare's work, one of the prevailing notes towards 
the whole sex-question is of absolute nausea and abhorrence ' (Figgis : 
op. cit., p. 284). 


though such a study also raises some further questions 
that have not yet been satisfactorily answered. The exact 
source of Shakespeare's plot and the date at which he 
wrote the play are two of the knottiest problems in the 
history of English literature, and we shall see that they 
both possess a considerable interest for our purpose. To 
know precisely what versions of the Hamlet stocy were 
accessible to Shakespeare before he wrote his play would 
teil us what were his own contributions to it, a piece of 
knowledge that would be invaluable for the study of his 
personality. Again, to know the exact date of his com- 
position might enable us to connect the impulse to write 
the play with significant events' in his own life. 

As far as has been at present ascertained, the facts 
seem to be somewhat as follows. Shakespeare must cer- 
tainly have taken not only the skeleton of the plot, but 
also a surprising amount of detail, from earlier writings. 
It is not absolutely known, however, which of these he 
had actually read, though it is probable that most of the 
following sources were available to him, all derived from 
the Hamlet legend as narrated early in the thirteenth Cent- 
ury by Saxo Grammaticus. This was printed, in Latin, in 
15 14, translated into German by Hans Sachs in 1558, 
and into French by Belieferest in 1570. 1 It is very pro- 
bable that a rough English translation of Belleforest's Ver- 
sion — we say version rather than translation, for it 
contains numerous modifications of the story as told by 
Saxo — was extant throughout the last quarter of the 
sixteenth Century, but the only surviving copy, entitled 
'The Hystorie of Hamblet', actually dates from 1608, 

1 Belleforest: Histoires tragiques (1564), t. V. 1570. This may 
have been derived directly from Saxo, but more likely from another 
intermediary now unknown. 


and Elze 1 has given reasons for thinking that whoever 
issued it had first read an English ' Hamlet* , possibly 
Shakespeare's own. For at least a dozen years before 
Shakespeare wrote his 'Hamlet* there was a drama of 
the same name being played in England; references to it 
were made in 1589 by Nash 2 and in 1596 by Lodge. 3 
The Suggestion, first made by Malone 4 in 1821, that this 
play is from the hand of Thomas Kyd has been strongly 
confirmed by later research 5 and may now be regarded 
as almost certainly established. There is contemporary 
evidence 6 shewing that it was played at Newington Butts' 
about 1594 by the Lord Chamberlain's Company, of which 
Shakespeare was at that time a member. Henslowe inci- 
dentally makes ic piain that it was a very common practice 
for dramatists to avail themselves freely of the material, 
whether of plot, character, or even language, supplied by 
their predecessors or contemporaries, and, apart from the 
moral certainty that Shakespeare must have been familiär 
with this play and drawn on it for his own, there is good 
reason for thinking that he incorporated actual parts of it 
in his 'Hamlet'. 7 

Now unfortunately no copy of Kyd's play has sur- 
vived. We can compare Shakespeare's 'Hamlet' with the 
Belieferest translation of Saxo's prose story and also with 

1 Elze: William Shakespeare, 1876. 

2 Nash: 'To the Gentlemen Students oi both Universities ', pre- 
fixed to Greene's Menaphon, or Arcadia, 1589. 

3 Lodge: Wits miserie, and the Worlds madnesse, 1596. 

4 Malone: Variorum, 1821, Vol. II. 

5 See Widgery: op. cit, pp. 100 et seq; Fleay: Chronicle of the 
English Drama, 1891 ; Sarrazin: Thomas Kyd und sein Kreis, 1892; 
Corbin: The Elizabethan Hamlet, 1895. 

^ Henslowe's Diary, 1609, reprinted by the Shakespeare Society, 


7 See Sarrazin: op. cit. ; and Robertson : The Problem of* Hamlet \ 

1919, PP- 34-41. 


the English modification of this, the 'Hystorie of Hamblet 
both of which he probably used; but not with the 
Elizabethan play, which he almost certainly used. We 
therefore cannot teil with surety which of his deviations 
from the original story originated with Shakespeare and 
which of them were merely taken over from Kyd. And it 
is just from deviations such as these that we can learn 
much of the personality of the writer; they are unmistak- 
ably his own contributions, whether they consist in 
positive additions or in negative omissions. 

Still the case is not quite so desperate as it seems. 
In the first place we have a copy — late, it is true, being 
printed only in 1710 — of a German play, 'Der bestrafte 
Brudermord oder Prinz Hamlet aus Dänemark/ which was 
played at least as early as 1626 in Dresden, and which 
intrinsic evidence proves to emanate, at all events in great 
part, from a very early and probably pre-Shakespearean 
version of 'Hamlet'. 1 The differences between it and Shake- 
speare's Hamlet' will be discussed later. In the second 
place a comparison can be instituted between ' Hamlet* 
and the surviving plays of Kyd, for instance ( The Spanish 
Tragedy' where there is also the theme of motiveless 
hesitation on the part of a hero who has to avenge his 
next-of-kin's murder. The characteristics of the two 
writers are so distinct that it is not very difficult for expert 
critics to teil with which a given passage or part of a plot 
is likely to have originated. The third consideration is a 
purely psychological one. It is in the last resort not of 
such absorbing interest whether Shakespeare took only 
part of a plot or the whole of it from other sources; the 

1 Bernhardy : * Shakespeare's Hamlet. Ein literar-historisch kritischer 
Versuch,' Hamburger literarisch-kritische Blätter, 18 57; Cohn: Shake- 
speare in Germany, 1865; Latham: Two Dissertations, 1872. 


essential point is that he took, or made, a plot of such 
a kind as to enable him to express his deepest personal 
feelings and thoughts. The intrinsic evidence from the play 
decisively shews that Shakespeare projected into it his 
inmost soulj the plot, whether he made it or found it, 
became his own, inasmuch as it obviously corresponded 
with the deepest part of his own nature. One has only 
for a moment to compare the treatment of the similar 
themes in 4 Hamlet ' and in 'The Spanish Tragedy' to 
realise how fundamentally different was Shakespeare's and 
Kyd's reaction to them. 

In addition to these definite sources rüder accounts 
of the old Amleth story, of Irish and Norse origin, were 
widely spread in England, and the name Hamlet itself, or 
some modification of it, was common in the Stratford 
district. 1 As is well known, Shakespeare in 1585 christened 
his only son Hamnet, a frequent variant of the name; 
the boy died in 1596. For all these reasons it is piain 
that the plot of the tragedy must have been present in 
Shakespeare's mind for many years before it actually took 
form as a new composition. When this happened is a 
matter of some uncertainty and considerable bearing. Many 
arguments, which need not be repeated here, have been 
given in favour of various dates between 1599 and 1602; 
more authorities can be cited to the effect that it was 
written in the winter of 160 1-2 than at any other time* 
On the basis of this Freud has made the highly interesting 
Suggestion that it followed as a reaction on the death ol 
Shakespeare's father; this event, which may well be sup- 
posed to have had the same awakening effect on old 
'repressed' death-wishes as the death of Hamlet's father 

1 Elton; William Shakespeare. His Family and Friends, 1904, 
p. 223. 


had with Hamlet, took place in September 1601. It is 
certainly noteworthy that the only other play in which he 
depicted a son's intimate relation to his mother, 'Corio- 
lanus', was written just after the death of Shakespeare's 
mother, in 1608 (though Frank Harris would doubtless 
retort that this was also the year in which Mary Fitton 
finally left London). 

4 Hamlet' was actually registered at Stationer's Hall 
on July 26, 1602, with the words added 'as it was lately 
acted.' In 1603 appeared the notorious pirated edition in 
quarto, the official version (Q. 2) following in 1604. In a 
recent remarkable textual study of the two quartos Dover 
Wilson 1 comes to the following conclusions. The first, 
pirated quarto and the second, definitely Shakespearean 
one were derived from the same source, an actor's copy 
used in the theatre from 1593 onward. He dates Kyd's 
play as being before 1588 and thinks that Shakespeare 
partly revised this about 1591-2; this revision was mainly 
confined to the ghost scenes. The Elizabethan 'Hamlet', 
therefore, used by the Lord Chamberlain Players in the 
sixteen-nineties would be a combination of Kyd's and 
Shakespeare's work, possibly recast by these and even by 
other dramatists from time to time. It is evident, however, 
that Shakespeare countered the 1602 piracy by issuing 
what was practically a re-written play, and the dates go to 
confirm Freud's Suggestion that this was done while he 
was still under the influence of the thoughts stirred by his 
father's death, an event which is usually the turning-point 
in the mental life of a man. 

If Dover Wilson's conclusions prove to be correct, 
as seems probable, then we may have an answer to the 

1 Dover Wilson: The Copy for 'Hamlet', 1603, and the 'Hamlet' 
Transcript, 1593; 1919- 


riddle provided by Harvey's marginal comments in his 
copy of Speght's Chaucer, which were presumably written 
before February 1601, as fixed by the date of Essex' 
death; in these he refers to Shakespeare's Hamlet'. 
Renewed interest in the point has been aroused by Moore 
Smith's l discovery of the copy in question which had 
been missing for over a Century. The passage in Harvey 
and also the inferred dates are by no means unequivocal, 
but even if the conclusion is accepted that it proves Shake- 
speare^ 'Hamlet' to have been in existence a couple oi 
years before the date usually allotted to its composition 
there is left the possibility that the reference is to the 
early acting version only, which may well by that time 
have become more associated with Shakespeare's name 
than with Kyd's, and not to the play that we know as 
'Shakespeare's Hamlet*. 

The play that Shakespeare wrote next after * Hamlet' 
was probably 'Measure for Measure', the main theme oi 
which Masson 2 considers to be 'mutual forgiveness and 
mercy\ Just about the some time, more likely before 
than after ' Hamlet', was written 'Julius Caesar', a play 
that calls for some special consideration here. Here we 
have a drama apparently devoid of any sexual problem 
or motive, and yet it has been shewn, in Otto Rank's 
excellent analysis, 3 that the inspiration of the main theme 
is derived from the same complex as we have studied in 
Hamlet. His thesis is that Caesar represents the father, 
and Brutus the son, of the typical Oedipus Situation. 
Psycho-analytic work has shewn that a ruler, whether kirig , 
emperor, president or what not, is in the unconscious 

and 232 

Moore Smith: Gabriel Harvey's Marginalia, 191 3, pp. vüi-xii 

2 Masson: op. cit., p. 133. 

3 Rank: op. cit, S. 204-9. 


mind a typical fathe r symbo L 1 and in actual Hfe he tends 
to dra w o n to hi msel f th&^ambivalent attitude characteristic 
of the son'^feelings for the father* On the one hand a 
ruler may be piously revered, respected and loved as the 
wise and tender parentj on the other he may be hated 
as the tyrannical authority against whom all rebellion is 
justified. Very little experience of life is enough to shew 
that the populär feelings about any ruler are always 
disproportionate, whether they are positive or negative; 
one has only to listen to the different opinions expressed 
about any actual ruler, e.g. Wilson, Lloyd George, or 
Clemenceau. The most complete nonentity may, if only 
he finds himself in the special position of kingship, be 
regarded either as a model of all the virtues, to whom 
all deference is due, or as a heartless tyrant whom it 
would be a good act to hurl from his throne. We have 
pointed out earlier the psychological origin of revolutionary 
tendencies in the primordial rebellion against the father, 
and it is with these that we are here mainly concerned. 
In Hamlet the two contrasting elements of the normal 
ambivalent attitude towards the father were expressed 
towards two sets of people; the pious respect and love 
towards the memory of his father, and the hatred, con- 
tempt and rebellion towards the father-substitutes, Claudius 
and Polonius. In other words, the original father has been 
transformed into two fathers, one good, the other bad y 
corresponding with the division in the son's feelings. With 
Caesar, on the other hand, the Situation is simpler. He is 
still the original father, both loved and hated at once, 
even by his murderer. That the tyrant aspect of Caesar, 
the Caesar who has to be killed by a revolutionary, was 
in Shakespeare's mind associated with Polonius, another 

1 See Ernest Jones: Paper s on Psycho-Analysis, 191 8, p. 143. 


4 bacT father who has to be killed, is indicated by a curious 
identification of the two in the ( Hamlet ' play: Polonius 
when asked what part he had ever played answers (Act, III, 
Sc. 2) 4 I did enact Julius Caesar: I was killed V the 
Capitol; Brutus killed me.' Those who always underestimate 
the absolute strictness with which the whole of our mental 
life is determined will pass this by; to those, however, 
who are accustomed to trace out the determining factors 
in unsparing detail it serves as one more example of how 
fine are the threads connecting our thoughts. Polonius 
might have quoted any other part on the stage, but it is 
an unescapable fact that he chose just this one. 

Appropriate estimates disclose the curious fact, first 
pointed out by Craik, * that Shakespeare made more 
frequent allusions to Caesar in his works than to any 
other man of all past time; of all men in the ränge of 
history Caesar seems to have been the one who most 
fascinated his imagination. There are so many passages 
mocking at Caesar's hook nose and tendency to brag that 
Masson 2 concludes these must have constituted special 
features in Shakespeare's recollection of him. These exhi- 
bitionistic Symbols accord well with the fact that the boy's 
'repressed' antipathy towards his father always centres 
about that part of his father whose functioning most 
excites his envy and jealousy. 

That the two noble characters of Hamlet and Brutus 
have a great deal in common has often been remarked. 3 
The resemblances and differences in which the 'sonV 
attitudes towards the 'father' come to expression in the 
two plays are of very great interest. In 'Julius Caesar' 
they are expressed by being incorporated in three different 

1 Craik: The English of Shakespeare, 3rd. Ed., 1864. 

2 Masson: op. cit, p. 177. 

3 See, for instance, Brandes: William Shakespeare, 1896, S. 456. 


'sons\ Thus, as Rank points out, 1 Brutus represents the 
son's rebelliousness, Cassius his remorsefulness, and Anthony 
his natural piety, 2 the ' father ' remaining the same person. 
In ( Hamlet \ on the other hand, the various aspects of 
the son's attitude are expressed 3 by the device of describ- 
ing them in regard to three different 'fathers', the love 
and piety towards his actual father, the hatred and con- 
tempt towards the father-type Polonius, and the conflict 
of both towards his uncle-father, Claudius (conscious detest- 
ation and unconscious sympathy and identification, one 
paralysing the other). The parricidal wish in Shakespeare 
is allowed to come to expression in the two plays by 
being concealed in two different ways. In 'Hamlet' it is 
displaced from the actual father to the father-substitutes. 
In 'Julius Caesar' there is supposed to be no actual blood 
relation between the two men, the ( son' and 'father* types. 
But a highly significant confirmation of the interpretation 
here adopted is the circumstance that Shakespeare in 
composing his tragedy entirely suppressed the fact that 
Brutus was the actual, though illegitimate, son of Caesar; 
this fact is plainly mentioned in Plutarch, the source ot 
Shakespeare's plot, one which he almost literally followed 
otherwise. 4 Even Caesar's famous death-cry 'Et tu, mi fili, 
Brüte !' appears* in Shakespeare only in the weakened form 
'Et tu, Brüte !\ Rank comments on the further difference 
between the two plays that the son's relation to the 

1 Rank: op. cit, S. 209. 

1 Against our treating Brutus, Cassius, and Anthony as types in 
this way it may be objected that they were after all actual historicai 
personages. But we are discussing them as they appear in Shakespeare, 
to whom they owc most of their life; what we know of them histori- 
cally is colourless and lifeless by comparison. 

8 That is, in the main. As is indicated elsewhere in the text, 
certain 'son* aspects are also depicted by, for instance, Laertes. 

4 Delius:' Cäsar und seine Quellen' Shakespeare- Jahrbuch, Bd. XVII. 


mother, the other side of the whole Oedipus complex, is 
omitted in 'Julius Caesar', whereas, as we have seen, it is 
strongly marked in 'Hamlet*. Yet even of this there is a 
faint indication in the former play. In his great speech to 
the Citizens Brutus says 4 Not that I loyed Caesar less, but 
that I loved Rome more' (Act. III, Sc. 2). Now it is not 
perhaps altogether without interest in this connection that 
cities, just like countries, are unconscious symbols^ -o£ the 
mother, * — this being an important source of the cons - 
cious feeling of patriotism — so that the passage reads as 
if Brutus, in a moment of intense emotion, had revealed 
to his audience the unconscious motive from which his 
action sprang. 

Besides Shakespeare's obvious interest in Caesar, noted 
above, there is another set of considerations, some ol 
which were certainly known to Shakespeare, connecting 
Brutus and Hamlet, and it seems likely that they consti- 
cuted an additional influence in determining him to write 
the one play so soon after the other. They are these. 
Belieferest 2 pointed out some striking resemblances between 
Saxo's story of Amleth and the Roman legend of the 
younger Brutus (Lucius Junius Brutus), and it is probable 
that Saxo derived much of his story from the Latin 
sources. 3 Both Plutarch and Belieferest were certainly 
accessible to Shakespeare. In both cases a son has to 
avenge a father who had been slain by a wicked uncle 
who usurped the throne — for the usurper Tarquinius 
Superbus had sUin his brother-in-law, Brutus* father, as 

1 See, for instance, Rank: 'Um Städte werben', Internationale Zeit- 
schrifl für Psychoanalyse, Bd. II, S. 50. 

2 I quote from York Powell in Elton's translation of Saxo's Danish 
History, 1894, pp. 405 et seq. 

3 Saxo's two main sources were the Roman one and the Icelandic 
Hrölf Saga. 


well as Brutus' brother 1 — and in both cases the young 
man feigned madness in Order to avoid arousing the suspic- 
ions of the tyrant, whom in both cases *he finally over- 
threw. Of further incidental interest, though of course not 
known to Shakespeare, is the fact that the name Hamlet 2 
has the same signification as that of Brutus, both words 
meaning 'doltish', 'stupid 1 ; the interest of this fact will be 
pointed out presently. 

There are numerous other indications of the influence 
of his Oedipus complex throughout Shakespeare's works,, 
especially in the earlier ones — there are actually son- 
father murders in Henry VI and Titus Andronicus — but 
as this subject has been dealt with so exhaustively by 
Rank in his work 'Das Inzest-Motiv in Dichtung und Sage* 
it is not necessary to repeat his discussion of it here. 


It is for two reasons desirable at this point to inter- 
polate a short account of the mythological relations of the 
original Hamlet legend, first so as to observe the personal 
contribution to it made by Shakespeare, and secondly 
because knowledge of it serves to confirm and amplify 
the psychological interpretation given above. 

Up to the present point in this essay an attempt has been 
made on the whole to drive the argument along a dry, logical 
path and to shew that prior to that given by Freud all 
the explanations of the mystery end in blind alleys. So far 
as I can see, there is no escape from the conclusion that 
the cause of Hamlet's hesitancy lies in some unconscious 
source of repugnance to his task; the next step of the 
argument, however, in which a motive for this repugnance 

1 Dionysius Halic: Antiquitates Romanae, 1885, Vol. IV, pp. 67, 77. 

2 See Detter: Zeitschrift für deutsches Altertum, 1892, Bd. VI, 
S. 1 et seq. 


is supplied, is avowedly based on considerations not 
generally appreciated, though I have tried to minimise the 
difficulty by assimilating the argument to some commonly 
accepted facts. Now, there is another point of view from 
which this labour would have been superfluous, in that 
Freud's explanation would appear directly obvious. To 
anyone familiär with the modern interpretation, based on 
psycho-analytic researches, of myths and legends, that 
explanation of the Hamlet problem would immediately 
occur on the first reading through of the play. The reason 
why this strong Statement can be made is that the story 
of Hamlet is merely an unusually elaborated form of a 
vast group of legends, the psychological significance of 
which is now, thanks to Freud and his co-workers, well 
understood. It would exceed our purpose to discuss in 
detail the historical relationship of the Hamlet legend to the 
other members of this group 1 and I shall content myself here 
with pointing out the psychological resemblences; Jiriczek 2 
and Lessmann 3 have adduced much evidence to shew that 
the Norse and Irish variants of it are descended from the 
ancient Iranian legend of Kaikhosrav and there is no doubt 
of the antiquity of the whole group, some members of 
which can be traced back to the beginning of history. 

The fundamental theme common to all the members 
of the group 4 is the success of a young hero in displacing 

1 See Zinzow: Die Hamlet-Sage an und mit verwandten Sagen 
erläutert Ein Beitrag zum Verständnis nordisch-deutscher Sagen- 
dichtung, 1877. 

2 Jiriczek: c Hamlet in Iran', Zeitschrift des Vereins für Volkskunde, 
1900, Bd. X. 

3 Lessmann: Die Kyrossage in Europa. Wissenschaftliche Beilage 
zum Jahresbericht der städtischen Realschule zu Charlottenburg, 1906. 

4 In the exposition of this group of myths I am largely indebted 
to Otto Rank's excellent volume, i Der Mythus von der Geburt des Helden', 
1909, in which most of the original references may also be found. 


a rival father. In its simplest form the hero is persecuted 
by a tyrannical father, who has usually been warned of his 
approaching eclipse, but after marvellously escaping from 
various dangers he avenges himself, often unwittingly, by 
slaying the father. The persecution mainly takes the form 
of attempts to destroy the hero's life just after his birth, 
by Orders that he is to be drowned, exposed to cold and 
starvation, or otherwise done away with. A good example 
of this simple form, illustrating all the features just 
mentioned, is the Oedipus legend, from which of course 
is derived the technical term 'Oedipus complex* so familiär 
in modern psychopathology. The underlying motive is openly 
betrayed by the hero marrying his mother Jocasta after 
having slain his father. This incestuous marriage also takes 
place in the same circumstances in the many Christian 
versions of the legend, for example, in those pertaining to 
Judas Iscariot and St. Gregory. 

The intimate relation of the hero to the mother may 
be indicated in other ways than marriage, for instance by 
their both being persecuted and exposed together to the 
same dangers, as in the legends of Feridun, Perseus, and 
Telephos. In some types of the story the hostility to the 
father is the predominating theme, in others the affection 
for the mother, but as a rule both of these are more or 
less plainly to be traced. 

The elaboration of the more complex variants of the 
myth is brought about chiefly by three factors, namely: 
an increasing degree of distortion engendered by greater 
psychological 'repression', complication of the main theme 
by subsidiary allied ones, and expansion of the story by 
repetition due to the creator's decorative fancy. In giving 
a description of these three processes it is difficult sharply 
to separate them, but they are all illustrated in the follow- 
ing examples. 


The ßrst, and most important disturbing factor, that 
of more pronounced 'repression,' manifests itself by the 
same mechanisms as those described by Freud in connection 
with normal dreams, 1 psychoneurotic Symptoms, etc. The 
most interesting of these mechanisms of myth formation 
is that known as 'decomposition,' which is the opposite of 
the * condensation ' so characteristic of dreams. Whereas in 
the latter process attributes of several individuals are fused 
together in the creation of one figure, much as in the 
production of a composite photograph, in the former process 
various attributes of a given individual are disunited and 
several other individuals are invented, each endowed with 
one group of the original attributes. In this way one person 
of complex character is dissolved and replaced by several, 
each of whom possesses a different aspect of the character 
which in a simpler form of the myth was combined in one 
being; usually the different individuals closely resemble one 
another in other respects, for instance in age. A great 
part of Greek mythology must have arisen in this way. A 
good example of the process in the group now under 
consideration is seen by the figure of a tyrannical father 
becoming split into two, a father and a tyrant. We then 
have a story told about a young hero's relation to two 
older men, one of whom is a tender father, the other a 
hated tyrant. The resolution of the original figure is often 
not complete, so that the two resulting figures stand in a 
close relationship to each other, being indeed as a rule 
members of the same family. The tyrant who seeks to 
destroy the hero is then most commonly the grandfather, 
as in the legends of the heroes Cyrus, Gilgam, Perseus, 
Telephos, and others, or the grand-uncle, as in those of 
Romulus and Remus and their Greek predecessors Amphion 

1 Cp. Abraham: Traum und Mythus, 1908. 


and Zethod. Less often is he the uncle, as in the Hamlet 
and Brutus legends, though there is an important Egyptian 
example in the religious myth of Horus and his uncle Set. 1 

When the decomposition is more complete the tyrant 
is not of the same family as the father and hero, though 
he may be socially related, as with Abraham whose father 
Therach was the tyrant Nimrod's cornmander-in-chief. The 
tyrant may, however, be a complete stranger, as in the 
examples of Moses and Pharoah, Feridun and Zohäk, Jesus 
and Herod, and others. It is clear that this scale of 
increasing decomposition corresponds with, and is doubtless 
due to, further stages of ' repression ' ; the more 'repressed' 
is the idea that the father is a hateful tyrant, the more 
completely is the imaginary figure of the persecuting tyrant 
dissociated from the recognised father. In the last two 
instances, and in many others, there is a still higher degree 
of 'repression,' for not only are the mother and son, but 
also the actual father himself, persecuted by the tyrant; 
it will be recalled how Jesus, Joseph and Mary all fled 
together to Egypt from Herod, and when we think that 
the occasion of the flight was the parents' desire to save 
their son from the tyrant it is impossible to conceive a 
more complete dissociation of the loving, solicitous father 
from the figure of the dreaded tyrant. 

There is a more disguised variant yet, however, in 
which the loving father is not only persecuted by the 
tyrant, typically in Company with the son and mother, but 
is actually slain by him. In this variant, well represented 
by the Feridun legend, the son adores his father and 
avenges his murder by killing their common enemy. It is of 
special interest to us here because it is the original form 
of the Hamlet legend as narrated by Saxo Grammaticus, 

1 Flinders Petrie: The Religion of Ancient Egypt, 1908, p. 38. 


where Feng (Claudius) murders his brother Horwendil 
and marries the latter's wife Gerutha, being slain in his 
turn by Amleth. The dutiful Laertes springing to avenge 
his murdered father Polonius is also an example of the 
same stage in the development of the myth. The picture 
here presented of the son as avenger instead of slayer 
of the father illustrates the highest degree of psychological 
4 repression/ in which the true meaning of the story is con- 
cealed by the identical mechanism that in real life conceals 
'repressed' hostility and jealousy in so many families, 
namely, the exactly opposite attitude of exaggerated solic- 
itude, care and respect. Nothing is so well calculated to 
conceal a given feeling as to emphasise the presence of 
its precise opposite; one can imagine the bewilderment of 
an actual Feridun, Amleth, or Laertes if they were told that 
their devotion to Üieir father and burning desire to avenge 

his murder constitute d a re act ion (to th eir own buried 

death-wishes ! There could be no more complete repu- 
diation of the primordial hostility of the son. 

Yet even in this form of the legend the 'repressed 
death-wish does after all come to expression; the father 
is really murdered, although at the hands of a hated 
tyrant. Myths are like dreams in being only products of 
the imagination, and if a man who was being psycho- 
analysed were to dream that a third person murdered his 
father he would not long be able to blame the third 
person for the idea, which obviously arose in his own 
mind. The process constitutes psychologically what Freud 
has termed 4 the return of the repressed \ In spite of the 
most absolute conscious repudiation of a death-wish the 
death does actually come about From this point of view 
it must be said that the 4 tyrant ' who commits the murder 
is a Substitute for the son who repudiates the idea: Zohäk, 
who kills Feridun's father Abtin, is a Substitute for Feridun, 


Feng for Amleth, and, in the Polonius section of Shake- 
speare's drama, Hamlet for Laertes. So that the figure of 
the 'tyrant' in this exceedingly complex variant of the 
myth is really a compromise-formation representing at one 
and the same time the hated father and the murderous 
son. On the one side he is identified with the primordial 
father, being hated by the young hero who ultimately 
triumphs over him; on the other with the young hero 
himself, in that he kills the hero's father. 1 

In Shakespeare's modification of the Hamlet legend 
there is an even more complicated distortion of the theme, 
the young hero now shrinking from playing the part of 
the avenging son. Psychologically it betokens not a further 
degree of 'repression', but rather a 4 regression\ The son 
really refuses to repudiate the murder-wish; he cannot 
punish the man who carried it out. Claudius is identified 
with the son almost as much as with the primary father- 
figure of the myth. Shakespeare's marvellous intuition has, 
quite unconsciously, penetrated beneath the surface of the 
smooth Amleth version. He lifts for us at least one layer 
of the concealing Depression ' and reveals something of 
the tumult below. 2 

Not only may the two paternal attributes mentioned 
above, fatherliness and tyranny, be split off so as to give 
rise to the creation of separate figures, but others also. 

1 For this reason Claudius should always be cast as midway in 
age between the two Hamlets, linking both together psychologically ; in 
a recent London production, by William Poel, this was done, Claudius 
appearing about ten years only older than Hamlet. 

2 One or two friends have made the reproach to me that my 
work on Hamlet diminished their aesthetic appreciation of the play. 
On the contrary I cannot but think that a fuller understanding of 
Shakespeare's work, its profound truth, its psychological correctness 
throughout, the depth of its inspiration, must enormously heighten our 
appreciation of its wonder. 


For instance, the power and authority of the parent may 
be incorporated in the person of a king or other distin- 
guished man, who may be contrasted with the actual 
father. 1 In the present legend, as has already been indic- 
ated, it is probable that the figure of Polonius may be 
thus regarded as resulting from 'decomposition' of the 
paternal archetype, representing a certain group of qualities 
which the young not infrequently find an irritating feature 
in their eiders. The senile nonentity, concealed behind a 
show of fussy pomposity, who has developed a rare capac- 
ity to bore his audience with the repetition of sententious 
platitudes in which profound ignorance of life is but thinly 
disguised by a would-be worldly-wise air; the prying busy- 
body whose meddling is, as usual, excused by his ( well- 
meaning' intentions, constitutes a figure that is sympathetic 
only to those who submissively accept the world's estimate 
of the superiority of the merely decrepit. Because of his 
greater distance from the original Oedipus Situation, not 
being a member of the royal family, he draws on to 
himself the son-hero's undisguised dislike, untempered by 
any doubts or conflicts, and Hamlet finds it possible to 
kill him without remorse. That he is but a Substitute for 
the step-father, i. e. a father imago, is shewn by the ease 
with which the two are identified in Hamlet's mind: after 
stabbing him he cries out 'Is it the king?' 

The setond disturbing factor in the primary Oedipus 
scheme is that due to the interweaving of the main theme 
of jealousy and incest between parent and son with others 
of a similar kind. We noted above that in the simplest 
form of decomposition of the paternal attributes the 
tyrannical role is most often relegated to the grandfather. 
It is no mere chance that this is so, and it is by no 

1 The best example of this is to be found in the Jesus myth. 


means fully to be accounted for by incompleteness of the 
decomposition. There is a deeper reason why the grand- 
father is peculiarly suited to play the part of tyrant and 
this will be readily perceived when we recollect the large 
number of legends in which he has previously interposed 
all manner of obstacles to the marriage of his daughter, 
the future mother. He opposes the advances of the would- 
be suitor, sets in his way various conditions and tasks 
apparently impossible of fulfilment — usually these are 
miraculously carried out by the lover — and even as a last 
resort locks up his daughter in an inaccessible spot, as in 
the legends of Gilgam, Perseus, Romulus, Telephos and 
others. The underlying motive in all this is that he grudges 
giving up his daughter to another man, not wishing to 
part with her himself (father-daughter complex). We are 
here once more reminded of events that may be observed 
in daily life by those who open their eyes to the facts, 
and the selfish motive is often thinly enough disguised 
under the pretext of an altruistic solicitude for the daughter's 
welfare; Gretna Green is a repository of such complexes. 
In two articles giving an analysis of parental complexes 1 
I have shewn that they are ultimately derived from infantile 
ones of the Oedipus type, the father's complex in regard 
to his daughter, called by Putnam 2 the 'Griselda complex', 8 
being a later development and manifestation of his own 
original Oedipus complex for his mother. 

When this grandfather's commands are disobeyed or 
circumvented his love for his daughter turns to bitterness 

1 'The Significance of the Grandfather for the Fate of the Indiv- 
idual' and 'The Phantasy of the Reversal of Generations ', Ch. XXXVIII 
and XXXIX of my Papers on Psycho-Analysis, 191 8. 

2 Putnam: 'Bemerkungen über einen Krankheitsfall mit Griselda- 
Phantasien', Internationale Zeitschrift für Psychoanalyse, 1913, Bd. I, 
S. 205; reprinted in his Addresses on Psycho-Analysis, 1921. 

3 Rank: 'Der Sinn der Griseldafabel', Imago, 1912, Bd, I, S. 34* 


and he pursues her and her offspring with insatiable hate. 
When the grandson in the myth, the young hero, avenges 
himself and his parents by slaying the tyrannical grand- 
father it is as though he realised the motive of the 
persecution, for in truth he slays the man who endeavoured 
to possess and retain the mother's affections, i. e. his own 
rival. Thus in this sense we again come back to the 
primordial father, for whom to him the grandfather is but 
an imago, and see that from the hero's point of view the 
distinction between father and grandfather is not so radical 
as it might at first sight appear. We perceive, therefore, 
that for two reasons this resolutiön of the original father 
into two persons, a kind father and a tyrannical grand- 
father, is not a very extensive one. 

The foregoing considerations throw more light on 
the figure of Polonius in the present play. In his attitude 
towards the relationship between Hamlet and Ophelia are 
many of the traits that we have just mentioned as being 
characteristic of the father-daughter complex displayed by 
the grandfather of the myth, though by the mechanism of 
rationalisation they are here skilfully disguised under the 
guise of worldly-wise advice. Hamlet's resentment against 
him is thus doubly conditioned, in that first Polonius, 
through the mechanism of 4 decomposition', personates a 
group of obnoxious elderly attributes, and secondly presents 
the equally objectionable attitude of the dog-in-the-manger 
father who grudges to others what he possesses but 
cannot himself enjoy. In this way, therefore, Polonius 
represents the antipathetic characteristics of both the father 
and the grandfather of mythology, so we are not surprised 
to find that, just as Perseus 'accidentally' slew his grand- 
father Acrisios, who had locked up his daughter Danae 
so as to preserve her virginity, so does Hamlet 'accidentally' 
slay Polonius, by a deed that resolves the Situation as 


correctly from the dramatic as from the mythological point 
of view. With truth has this act been called the turning- 
point of the play, for from then on the tragedy relentlessly 
proceeds with ever increasing pace to its culmination in 
the doom of the hero and his adversary. 

The characteristics of the father-daughter complex are 
also found in a similar one, the brother-sister complex. As 
analytic work shews every day, this also, like the former 
one, is a derivative of the fundamental Oedipus complex.- 
When the incest barrier develops early in the life of the 
young boy it begins first in regard to his relationship with 
the mother, and only later sets in with the sister as well; 
indeed, erotic experiences between brother and sister iir 
early childhood are exceedingly common. The sister is 
usually the first replacement of the mother as an erotic 
object; through her the boy learns to find his way to other 
women. His relationship to his sister duplicates that of the 
two parents to each other, and in life he often plays a 
father-part in regard to her (care, protection, etc.). In the 
present play the attitude of Laertes towards his sister 
Ophelia is quite indistinguishable from that of their father 

Hamlet's relation to Laertes is, mythologically speaking, 
a double one, a fusion of two primary Oedipus schemes, 
one the reverse of the other. On the one hand Laertes, 
being identified with the old Polonius in his attitude towards 
Ophelia and Hamlet, represents the tyrant father, Hamlet 
being the young hero; Hamlet not only keenly resents 
Laertes' open expression of his devoted affection for 
Ophelia — in the grave scene — but at the end of the 
play kills him, as he had killed Polonius, in an accurate 
consummation of the mythological motive. On the other 
hand, however, as was remarked earlier, from another point 
of view we can regard Hamlet and Polonius as two figures 


resulting from ( decomposition ' of Laertes' father, just as 
vve did with the eider Hamlet and Claudius in relation to 
Hamlet. For in the relationship of the three men Hamlet 
kills the father Polonius, just as the tyrant father kills the 
good father in the typical Feridun form of the myth, and 
Laertes, who is from this point of view the young hero, 
avenges this murder by ultimately slaying Hamlet. An 
interesting confirmation of this view that the struggle 
between the two men is a representation of a father-son 
contest has been pointed out by Rank. 1 It is that the 
curious episode of the exchange of rapiers in the fatal duel 
is an evident replacement of a similar episode in the original 
saga, where it takes place in the final fight between Hamlet 
and his step-father, when Hamlet kills the latter and escapes 
unwounded. From this point of view we reach the interesting 
conclusion that Laertes and Claudius are psychological and 
mythological equivalents or duplicates. Each represents 
aspects of both generations, the father who is to be killed 
and the revolutionary, murderous son, thus differing from 
Polonius, the Ghost, and the eider Hamlet himself, who 
are all pure father-figures. The equivalence of the two men 
is well brought out dramatically. Not only does the King's 
sword of the saga become Laertes' rapier in the play, but 
in the duel scene it is evident that Laertes is only a tool 
in Claudius' hand, carrying out his intention with what was 
his own weapon. Throughout the play, therefore, we perceive 
the theme of the son-father conflict recurring again and 
again in the most complicated interweavings. 

That the brother-sister complex was operative in the. 
original Hamlet legend also is evidenced in several ways. 
From a religious point of view Claudius and the Queen 
stood to each other in exactly the same relationship as do 

1 Rank: Das Inzestmotiv in Dichtung und Sage, 1912, S. 226, 227. 



brother and sister, which is the reason why the term 
'incestuous' is always applied to it and stress laid on the 
fact that their guilt e:*ceeded that of simple adultery. 1 Of 
still more interest is the fact that in the saga — plainly 
stated in Saxo and indicated in Belieferest — Ophelia (or 
rather her nameless precursor) was said to be a foster- 
sister of Amleth; she bore here no relation to Polonius, 
this being an addition made by the dramatist with an 
obvious motivation. This being so, we would seem to trace 
a still deeper reason for Hamlet's misogynous turning from 
her and for his jealous resentment of Laertes. This theme 
of the relation between siblings, however, is much less 
prominent in the Hamlet legend than in some others of 
the same group, e. g. those of Cyrus, Karnä, etc., so that 
it will not be dwelt on further here. 

The third factor to be considered is the process 
technically known to mythologists as 'doubling' of the 
principal characters. The chief motive for its occurrence 
seems to be the desire to exalt the importance of these, 
and especially to glorify the hero, by decoratively Alling 
in the stage with lay figures of colourless copies whose 
neutral movements contrast with the vivid activities of the 
principals; it is perhaps more familiär in music than in 
other products of the imagination. This factor is sometimes 
hard to distinguish from the first one, for it is piain that 
a given multiplying of figures may serve at the same time 
the function of decomposition and that of doubling; in 
general it may be said that the former function is more 
often fulfilled by the creation of a new person who is 
related to the principal character, the latter by the creation 
of one who is not, but the rule has many exceptions. In 

1 It may be noted that Shakespeare accepted Belleforest's alteration 
of the original saga in making the Queen commit incest during the life 
of her first husband. 


the present legend Claudius seems to subserve both functions. 
It is interesting to note that in many legends it is not the 
father's figure who is doubled by the creation of a brother, 
but the grandfather's. This is so in some versions of the 
Perseus legend and, as was referred to above, in those of 
Romulus and Amphion; in all three of these the creation 
of the king's brother, as in the Hamlet legend, subserves 
the functions of both decomposition and doubling. Good 
examples of the simple doubling process are seen with the 
maid of Pharaoh's daughter in the Moses legend and in 
many of the figures of the Cyrus one. 1 Perhaps the purest 
examples in the present play are the colourless copies of 
Hamlet presented by the figures of Horatio, Marcellus and 
Bernardo; the first of these was derived from a foster- 
brother of Hamlet's in the saga. Laertes and the younger 
Fortinbras, on the other hand, are examples of both 
doubling and decomposition of the main figure. Laertes is 
the more complex figure of the two, for in addition to 
representing, as Claudius also does, both the son and 
father aspects of Hamlet's mentality, in the way explained 
above, he evinces also the influence of the brother-sister 
complex and in a more positive form than does Hamlet. 
Hamlet's jealousy of Laertes' interference in connection 
with Ophelia is further to be compared with his resentment 
at the meddling of Guildenstern and Rosencrantz. They are 
therefore only copies of the Brother of mythology and, 
like him, are killed by the Hero. Common to Hamlet, 
Laertes, and Fortinbras is the theme of revenge for murder 
or injury done to a dead father. It is noteworthy that 
neither of the latter two shew any sign of inhibition in the 
Performance of this task and that with neither is any 
reference made to his mother. In Hamlet, on the other 

1 This is very clearly pointed out byRank: Der Mythus von der 
Geburt des Helden, 1909, S. 84, 85. 


hand, in whom ' repressed ' love for the mother is at least 
as strong as 'repressed' hostility against the father, 
inhibition appears. 

The interesting subject of the actual mode of origin 
of myths and legends, and the relation of them to infantile 
phantasies; will not here be considered/ since our interest 
in the topic is secondary to the main one of the play of 
i Hamlet ' as given to us by Shakespeare. Enough perhaps 
has been said of the comparative mythology of the Hamlet 
legend to shew that in it are to be found ample indications 
of the working of all forms of incestuous fantasy. We may 
summarise the foregoing consideration of this aspect of 
the subject by saying that the main theme of this story is 
a highly elaborated and disguised account of a boy's love 
for his mother and consequent jealotisy of and hatred 
towards his father; the allied one in which the brother and 
sister respectively play the same part as the father and 
mother in the main theme is also told, though with sub- 
ordinate interest. 

Last of all in this connection may be mentioned a 
matter which on account of its general psychological 
interest has provoked endless discussion, namely Hamlet's 
so-called i Simulation of madness \ I do not propose to 
review the extraordinarily extensive literature that has 
grown up over this matter, 2 for before the advent of the 
new science of psychopathology such discussions were 
bound to be little better than guesswork and now possess 
only an historical interest. There is of course no question 
of insanity in the proper sense of the word; Hamlet's 

1 Those who wish to pursuc the subject from the psycho-analytical 
point of view are referred to the writings of Freud, Rank and Abraham. 

2 The earlier part of this will be found in Furness' Variorum 
Shakespeare, * Hamlet', Vol. II, pp. 195-235; See further Delbrück: 
Über Hamlets Wahnsinn, 1893. 


behaviour is that of a psychoneurotic and as such naturally 
aroused the thought on the part of those surrounding him 
that he was suffering from some inner affliction. The traits 
in Hamlet's behaviour that are commonly called ( feigning 
madness' are brought to expression by Shakespeare in 
such a refined and subtle manner as to be not very 
transpicuous unless one compares them with the corre- 
sponding part of the original saga. The fine irony exhibited 
by Hamlet in the play, which enables him to express con- 
tempt and hostility in an indirect and disguised form — 
beautifully illustrated, for instance, in his conversations 
with Polonius — is a transmutation of the still more con- 
cealed mode of expression adopted in the saga, where 
the hero's audience commonly fails to apprehend his meaning. 
He here combines a veiled form of speech, füll of obvious 
equivocations and intent to deceive, with a curiously 
punctilious insistence on verbal truthfulness. Saxo gives 
many examples of this and adds: 1 'He was loth to be 
thought prone to lying about any matter, and wished to 
be held a stranger to falsehood ; and accordingly he mingled 
craft and candour in such wise that, though his words did 
not lack truth, yet there was nothing to betoken the 
truth and betray how far his keenness went '. Even in the 
saga, however, w r e read 2 that 'some people, therefore, 
declared that his mind was quick enough, and fancied that 
he only played the simpleton in order to hide his under- 
standing, and veiled some deep purpose under a cunning 
feint'. The king and his friends applied all sorts of tests 
to him to determine this truth, tests which of course the 
hero successfully withstands. It is made piain that Amleth 
deliberately adopts this curious behaviour in order to 

1 Saxo Grammaticus : Danish History, translated by Elton, 1894, 
p. 109. 

2 Saxo: op. cit, p. 108. 


further his scheme of revenge, to which — thus differing 
from Hamlet — he had whole-heartedly devoted himself. 
The actual mode of Operation of his Simulation here is 
very instructive to observe, for it gives us the clue to a 
deeper psychological interpretation of the process. His 
conduct in this respect has three characteristics, first the 
obscure and disguised manner of speech just referred to, 
secondly a demeanour of indolent inertia and general 
purposelessness, and thirdly conduct of childish and at 
times quite imbecillic foolishness {Dummstellen)] the third 
of these is well exemplified by the way in which he rides 
into the palace seated backwards on a donkey, imitates 
a cock crowing and flapping its wings, rolling on the 
floor, and similar asininities. His motive in so acting was, 
by playing the part of a harmless fool, to deceive the 
king and court as to his projects of revenge, and un- 
observed to get to know their plans and intentions; in this 
he admirably succeeded. Belleforest adds the interesting 
touch that Amleth, being a Latin scholar, had adopted 
this device in imitation of the younger Brutus: as was 
remarked earlier, both names signify 'doltish', 'stupid'; 
the derived Norwegian word ' amlod ' is still a colloquialism 
for 'fool\ l Belleforest evidently did not know how usual 
it was for famous young heroes to exhibit this trait; 
similar stories of 'simulated foolishness ' are narrated of 
David, Moses, Cyros, Kaikhosrav, William Teil, Parsifal, 
and many others besides Hamlet and Brutus. 2 

The behaviour assumed by Amleth in the saga is 
not that of any form of insanity. It is a form of Syndrome 
well-known to occur in hysteria to which various names 
have been given: 'simulated foolishness * (Jones), 'Dumm- 
stellen , ) 'Moria* (Jastrowitz), 'ecmnesie* (Pitres), 'retour 

1 Assen: Norsk Ordbog, 1877. 

2 See Rank: Das Inzest-Motiv, S. 264, 265. 


ä l'enfance' (Gandy), ( Witzelsucht ' (Oppenheim), 'puer- 
ilisme mental ' (Dupr6), and so on. I have published 
elsewhere 1 a clinical study of the condition, with a descrip- 
tion of a typical case; Rank 2 has reached similar con~ 
clusions from his extensive mythological studies. The 
complete Syndrome comprises the following features : 
foolish, witless behaviour, an inane, inept kind of funniness 
and silliness, and childishness. Now, in reading the numerous 
examples of Amleth's ( foolish ' behaviour as narrated by 
Saxo one cannot help being impressed by the childish 
characteristics manifested throughout in them. His peculiar 
riddling sayings, obviously aping the innocence of chiidhood, 
his predilection for dirt and for smearing himself with 
filth, his general shiftlessness, and above all the highly 
characteristic combination of fondness for deception as a 
thing in itself (apart from the cases where there is a 
definite motive) with a punctilious regard for verbal truth, 
are unmistakably childish traits. The whole Syndrome is an 
exaggeration of a certain type of demeanour displayed at 
one time or another by most children, and psycho-analysis 
of it has demonstrated beyond any doubt that their motive 
in behaving so is to simulate innocence and often extreme 
childishness, even ' foolishness \ in order to delude their 
eiders into regarding them as being ( too young to 
understand' or even into altogether disregarding their 
presence. The purpose of the artifice is that by these 
means children can view and overhear various private 
things which they are not supposed to. It need hardly be 

1 'Simulated Foolishness in Hysteria', American Journal of 
Insanity, 1910; reprinted as Ch. XXIV of my Papers on Psycho- 
Analysis, 191 8. 

2 Rank: Die Lohengrin-Sage, 191 1; 'Die Nacktheit in Sage und 
Dichtung', Imago, 191 3; numerous passages in his other works 
previously quoted, especially ; Das Inzestmotiv, Der Mythus von der 
Geburt des Helden, etc. 


said that the curiosity thus indulged in is in most cases 
concerned with matters of a directly sexual nature; even 
marital embraces are in this way investigated by quite 
young children 'far oftener than is generally suspected or 
thought possible. The core of Amleth's attitude is secrecy 
and spying: secrecy as to his own thoughts, knowledge, 
and plans; spying as regards those of his enemy, his 
step-father. These two character traits are certainly 
derived from forbidden curiosity about secret, i. e. sexual 
matters in early childhood. So is the love of deception 
for its own sake, a trait which sometimes amounts to what 
is called pathological lying; it is a defiant reaction to the 
lies almost always told to the child, and always detected 
by him. In so behaving the child is really caricaturing the 
adult's behaviour to himself, as also in the punctiliousness 
about verbal truth that is sometimes combined with the 
tendency to deceive; he is pretending to teil the truth as 
the parent pretended to teil it to him, deceiving going on 
all the while in both cases. That the theme of the Arnleth 
motif is derived from an infantile and sexual source can 
easily be shewn from the material provided in the saga 
itself. The main test applied to him by Feng in order to 
discover whether he was really stupid or only pretending 
to be so was to get a young girl (the prototype of 
Ophelia) to seduce him away to a lonely part of the woods 
and then send retainers to spy on them and find out 
whether he knew T how to perform the sexual act or not. 
Then follows a long story of how Arnleth is warned of 
the plot and manages to outwit the spies and also to 
attain his sexual goal. This passage, so obviously inappro- 
priate if taken literally as applying to a man of Amleth's 
age and previous intelligence, can only be understood by 
correlating it with the unconscious source of the theme, 
and this always emanates from the impulses of childhood. 


4 Knowledge' is often feit to be synonymous with ' sexual 
knowledge ', the two terms being in many contexts inter- 
changeable: for instance, the legal expression 'to have 
knowledge of a girl ', the Biblical one ' and Adam knew 
Eve his wife ' (after eating of the tree of knowledge), and 
so on. If a child has mastered the great secret he feels 
that he knows what matters in life; if he hasn't he is in 
the dark. And, as in the Amleth saga, to prove that 
someone is ignorant of this fundamental matter is the 
supreme test of his stupidity and 4 innocence \ 

Spying and overhearing play such a constant part in 
the Amleth saga as to exclude the possibility of their 
being unconnected with the central theme of the story. 
After the plot just mentioned had failed Feng's coun- 
sellor, the prototype of Polonius, devises another in which 
Amleth is to be spied on when talking to his mother in 
her bedroom. During the voyage to England the king's 
retainers enter Amleth's bedroom to listen to his convers- 
ation. Before this Amleth had spied on his companions 
and replaced their letter by one of his own. In the later 
part of the saga, not utilised by Shakespeare, two other 
instances of spying occur. In { Hamlet ' Shakespeare has 
retained these scenes and added one other. The first time 
is when the interview between Hamlet and Ophelia, doubt- 
less taken from the test described above, is overlooked 
by the king and Polonius ; the second when Hamlet's 
interview with his mother is spied on by Polonius, who 
thereby loses his life; and the third when the same inter- 
view is watched by the Ghost. It is appropriate to the 
underlying theme of sexual curiosity that two out of these 
should take place in the mother's bedchamber, the original 
scene of such curiosity; on both occasions the father- 
substitute comes behveen Hamlet and his mother, as though 
to separate them, the reversal of a theme common in 


primitive cosmogonies. The most striking example in 
'Hamlet 1 of a spying scene is the famous 'play within a 
Play*, for in a very neat analysis Rank 1 has shewn that 
this play scene is a disguised representation of the infantile 
curiosity theme discussed above. 

From this point of view we can specify more nearly 
the precise aspect of the father that is represented by 
the 4 decomposed ' figure Polonius. It is clearly the spying, 
watching, ' all-knowing ' father, who is appropriately outwitted 
by the cunning youth. Now it is interesting that, apart 
from Falstaff and the subordinate names of Reynaldo and 
Gonzago, 2 Polonius is the only person whose name Shake- 
speare changed in any of his plays, and one naturally 
wonders why he did so. In the Kyd play and also in the 
first Ouarto the name was Corambis. The plausible Sugge- 
stion has been made 3 that the name Polonius was taken 
from Polonian, the name for a Pole in Elizabethan English, 
for the reason that even at that date Poland was the land 
pre-eminent in policy and intrigue. 

Amleth's feigned stupidity in the saga is very crudely 
depicted and its meaning is quite evident. The use Shake- 
speare made of this unpromising material, and the way in 
which he made it serve his aim of completely transforming 
the old story, is one of the master-strokes of the drama. 
Amleth's gross acting, for a quite deliberate purpose, is 
converted into a delicately drawn character trait. Merciless 
satire, caustic irony, ruthless penetration together with the 
old habit of speaking in riddles: all these betray not 
simply the caution of a man who has to keep his secret 

i Rank: «Das "Schauspiel" in Hamlet ', Imago, Bd. IV, S. 41. 

2 the story of the Gonzago play is taken from a murder by a 
man of that name of a duke which was committed in 1538 by means 
of pouring poison into his ear. 

3 By Furness: op. cit, p. 242. 


from those around him, as with Amleth, but the poignant 
sufferings of a man who is being torn and tortured within 
his own mind, who is struggling to escape from knowing 
the horrors of his own heart. With Amleth the feigned 
stupidity was the weapon used by a single-hearted man in 
his fight against external difficulties and deliberate foes; 
with Hamlet it — or rather what corresponds to it, his 
peculiar behaviour — was the agent by which the secret 
of a man torn by suffering was betrayed to a previously 
unsuspecting foe 1 and increasing difficulties were created 
in his path where none before existed. In the issue Amleth 
triumphed; Hamlet was destroyed. The different use made 
of this feature in the story symbolises more finely than 
anything eise the transformation effected by Shakespeare. 
An inertia pretended for reasons of expediency becomes 
an inertia unavoidably forced on the hero from the depths 
of his nature. In this he shews that the tragedy of man 
is within himself, that, as the ancient saying goes : Character is 
Fate. It is the essential difference between pre-historic and 
civilised man; the difficulties with which the former had 
to contend came from without, those with which the latter 
have to contend really come from within. This inner 
conflict modern psychologists know as neurosis, and it is 
only by study of neurosis that one can learn the funda- 
mental motives and instincts that move men. Here, as in 
so many other respects, Shakespeare was the first modern. 


It is highly instructive now to review the respects in 
which the plot of 'Hamlet' deviates from that of the 
original saga. We are here, of course, not concerned with 
the poetic and literary representation, which not merely 

1 On the way in which Hamlet's conduct inevitably led him into 
ever increasing danger see Loening, op. cit, S. 385, et seq. 


revivified an old story, but created an entirely new work 
of genius. The changes effected were mainly two and it 
can be said that Shakespeare was only very slightly 
indebted to others for them. The first is as follows: In the 
saga Feng (Claudius) had murdered his brother in public, 
so that the deed was generaly known, and further had 
with lies and false witnesses sought to justify the deed 
by pretending it was done to save the Queen from the 
cruel threats of her husband. * This view of the matter 
he successfully imposed on the nation, so that, as Belie- 
ferest has it, c son peche trouva excuse ä l'endroit du 
peuple et fut repute comme justice envers la noblesse — et 
qu'au reste, en Heu de le poursuyvre comme parricide 2 et 
incestueux, chacun des courtisans luy applaudissoit et le 
flattoit en sa fortune prospere \ Now was the change 
from this to a secret murder effected by Shakespeare or 
by Kyd? It is of course to be correlated with the intro- 
duction of the Ghost, of whom there is no trace in either 
Saxo or Belieferest. This must have been done early in 
the history of the Elizabethan ' Hamlet', for it is referred 
to by Lodge 3 in 1596 and is also found in 'Der bestrafte 

1 Those acquainted with psycho-analytic work will have no 
difficulty in discerning the infantile sadistic origin of this pretext (See 
Freud: Sammlung kleiner Schriften, Zweite Folge, 1909, S. 169). Young 
children commonly interpret an overheard coitus as an act of violence 
imposed on the mother and they are in any case apt to come to this 
conclusion whichever way they are enlightened on the facts of sex. 
The view in question is certainly an aggravating cause of the unconscious 
hostility against the father. 

This point again coniirms our conclusion that Claudius partly 
incorporates Hamlet' s ' repressed ' wishes, for we see in the saga that he 
not only kills the father-king but also gives as an excuse for it just the 
reason that the typical son feels. 

2 Saxo also has ' parricidium ', which was of course occasionally 
tised to denote the murder of other near relatives than the parents. 

3 Lodge : loc. cit. 


Brudermord ', though neither of these reasons is decisive 
for excluding Shakespeare's hand. But purely literary con- 
siderations make it likely enough, as Robertson * has pointed 
out, that the change was introduced by Kyd, who seems 
to have had a partiality for Ghost scenes. In the saga 
there was delayed action due to the external difficulties 
of penetrating through the king's watchful guard. Kyd 
seems to have retained these external difficulties as an 
explanation for the delay, though his introduction of the 
Ghost episode for reasons of his own — probably first in 
the form of a prologue— somewhat weakened them as a 
justification, since to have the Ghost episode the murder 
had to be a secret one — otherwise there would be nothing 
for the Ghost to reveal and no reason for his appearance. 
But his Hamlet, as in the saga, had a quite single-hearted 
attitude towards the matter of revenge; he at once 
confided in Horatio, secured his help, and devoted himself 
entirely to his aim. There was no self-reproaching, no 
doubt, and no psychological problem. Shakespeare, however, 
saw the obvious advantages of the change in the plot — if 
he did not introduce it himself — for his intention of trans- 
forming the play from an external struggle into an internal 
tragedy. The change minimises the external difficulties of 
Hamlet's task, for plainly it is harder to rouse a nation 
to condemn a crime and assist the avenger when it has 
been openly explained and universally forgiven than when 
it has been guiltily concealed. If the original plot had 
been retained there would be more excuse for the Klein- 
Werder hypothesis, though it is to be observed that even 
in the saga Hamlet successfully executed his task, herculean 
as it was. The present rendering makes still more 
conspicuous Hamlet's recalcitrancy, for it disposes of the 

1 Robertson: op. cit, pp. 44, 55, 56. 


only justifiable plea for delay. That Shakespeare saw the 
value of the chaiige thus unwittingly and ununderstandingly 
introduced by Kyd is proved by the fact that later on he 
took steps to remove the last traces of even a relative 
Publicity concerning the murder. In the first Quarto Hamlet 
secures his mother's promise to help him in his plans of 
revenge, and later Horatio in an interview with the Queen 
speaks with knowledge of Hamlet's plans of revenge and 
learns from the Queen that she sympathises with them. 
Both these passages were omitted in the second Quarto. 
The Omission unmistakably indicates Shakespeare's intention 
to depict Hamlet not as a man dismayed by external 
difficulties and naturally securing the Cooperation of those 
he could trust, but as a man who could not bring himself 
to speak to his best friend about his quite legitimate 
desire for revenge, simply because his own mind was in 
dire conflict on the matter. 

The second and all-important respect in which 
Shakespeare, and he alone, changed the story and thus 
revolutionised the tragedy is the vacillation and hesitancy 
he introduced into Hamlet's attitude towards his task, 
with the consequent paralysis of his action. In all the 
previous versions Hamlet was throughout a man of rapid 
decision and action wherever possible, not — as with Shake- 
speare's version — in everything except in the one task of 
vengeance. He had, as Shakespeare's Hamlet feit he should 
have, swept to his revenge unimpeded by any doubts or 
scruples and had never flinched from the straightforward 
path of duty. With him duty and natural inclination went 
hand in hand; from his heart he wanted to do that which 
he believed he ought to do, and thus was harmoniously 
impelled by both the summons of his conscience and the 
cry of his blood. There was none of the deep-reaching 
conflict that was so disastrous to Shakespeare's Hamlet. 


It is as though Shakespeare, on reading the story, had 
realised that had he been plaeed in a similar Situation he 
would not have found the path of action so obvious as 
was supposed, but would on the contrary have been torn 
in a conflict which was all the more intense for the fact 
that he could not explain its nature. Bradley, in the 
passage quoted earlier, might well say that this was the 
only tragic Situation to which Shakespeare himself would 
not have been equal, and we now know the reason must 
have been that his penetration had unconsciously revealed 
to his feeling, though not to his conscious intelligence, 
the fundamental meaning of the story. His own Oedipus 
complex was too strong for him to be able to repudiate 
it as readily as Amleth and Laertes had done and he 
could only create a hero who was unable to escape from 
its toils. 

In this transformation Shakespeare exactly reversed 
the plot of the tragedy. Whereas in the saga this consisted 
in the overcoming of external difficulties and dangers by 
a single-hearted hero, in the play these are removed and 
the plot lies in the fateful unrolling of the consequences 
that result from an internal conflict in the hero's soul. 
From the struggles of the hero issue dangers which at 
first did not exist, but which, as the effect of his untoward 
essays, loom increasingly portentous until at the end they 
close and involve him in final destruction. More than this, 
every action he so reluctantly engages in for the fulfilment 
of his obvious task seems half-wittingly to be disposed in 
such a way as to provoke destiny, in that, by arousing 
the suspicion and hostility of his enemy, it defeats its own 
purpose and helps to encompass his own ruin. The conflict 
in his soul is to him insoluble and the only steps he can 
make are those which inexorably draw him nearer and 

nearer to his doom. In him, as in every victim of a 



powerful unconscious conflict, the Will to Death is fund- 
amentally stronger than the Will to Life, and his struggle 
is at heart one long despairing fight against suicide, the 
least intolerable Solution of the problem. Being unable to 
free himself from the ascendency of his past he is necess- 
arily impelled by Fate along the only path he can travel — to 
Death. In'thus vividly exhibiting the desperate but unavailing 
struggle of a strong man against Fate Shakespeare achieved 
the very essence of the Greek conception of tragedy, but 
he went beyond this and shewed that the real nature of 
man's Fate is inherent in his own soul. 

There is thus reason to believe that the new life 
which Shakespeare poured into the old story was the 
outcome of inspirations that took their origin in the 
deepest and darkest regions of his mind. He responded 
to the peculiar appeal of the story by projecting into it 
his profoundest thoughts and emotions in a way that has 
ever since wrung wonder from all who have heard or read 
the tragedy. It is only fitting that the greatest work of 
the world-poet should have had to do with the deepest 
problem and the intensest conflict that have occupied the 
mind of man since the beginning of time — the revolt of 
youth and of the impulse to love against the restraint 
imposed by the jealous eld. 



In a recent interesting monograph on Heinrich von Kleist 
Sadger 2 has called attention to a number of considerations 
bearing on the psychology of the impulse to die together 
with a loved one, to share death in common. As it is 
possible in a special Journal to pursue an analysis more 
freely than in writings intended for a lay audience, I wish 
to comment here on two points in this connection which 
Sadger — I assume, with intention — left untouched. 

Of the general psycho-sexual significance of the idea 
of death nothing need be added here. Freud, Stekel, and 
others have fully described the masochistic phantasies in 
which the idea may become involved, and this is also 
clearly illustrated in Sadger's monograph. The common 
mythological and folk-loristic conception of death as a 
spirit that violently attacks one mainly originates in this 

The question of ' dying together ' is, however, more 
sompllcated, the tendency being detejr mined by several 
n io l ives : — The' mosx obvious o.t tliese is that underlying ( a 

1 Published in the Zentralblatt für Psychoanalyse, September 
191 1, Jahrgang I, S. 563. 

2 Sadger : Heinrich von Kleist. Eine pathographisch-psychologische 
Studie, 1910. 



belief in a world beyond, a region where all hopes that 
are~~3enied in this llfeHwill come trüerTEe" wisH^Toffilinent 

tföiHprTse9"""uT this belief subservesT^oL course^a similar 
funcHonHi:«^ neurqses-and psychoses ; 

the consolatioüL it yields^ as is well-recognised by theo- 
logians, is naturally ^reater jittimes when life isfilfeä with 
disappoint ment and sorrow^The same is true of the desire 
to die together with one's beloved, as is well illustrated 
by the accessory factors that helped to drive von Kleist 
to suicide. 1 With him, however, as Sadger clearly shews, 2 
there was a specific and irresistible attraction toward the 
act, one which is not at all accounted for by the attendant 
circumstances. Most psycho-analysts will probably agree 
with Sadger's conclusions 3 that 4 the wish to die together 
is the same as the wish to sleep and lie together (originally, 
of course, with the mother)', and that ( the grave so longed 
for by Kleist is simply an equivalent of the mother's bed \ 
Von Kleist's own words plainly confirm this: he writes, 
( I mustjconfess_^ 

than the beds of aüjfche empresses 4 of the world/ The idea 
that ffeath _consists in a ret urn to the heaven whence we 
W^en5orn^j._e. to the m other's womfr,~~T<r~1^^ 
in religious and other spheres^oTffiOTgHt. ~^ 

T5eeper motives connect the subject with that of 
necrophilia. First of these may be mentioned the sadistic 
impulse,^ which can be infla med at Jhe thou ght of com- 
munion with ä^^^Zp erson--- ^ partly th rough the helple ss 
resistiessness^ of the latter, and pa rtly through the idea, 
that a dead ^mis^e ^^ca iTli^ver be wearied by excessive 

1 idem: op. cit., S. 60, 61. 
9 idem: op. cit, S. 56-8. 

3 idem: op. cit, S. 60. 

4 Empress, like Queen, is a well-known unconscious symbol of the 


c^ss^s^-jcaa--^tidur e_ without limit ? j is forever loyal. The 
latter jthought of the _jnsatiab ility of t he dead often rec urs 
inj foe literature o njmmByrigm; it is indicated in the verses 
where Heine, in his dedication to 'Der Doktor Faust', 
makes the returned Helena say: 

Du hast mich beschworen aus dem Grab 
Durch deinen Zauberwillen, 
Belebtest mich mit Wollustglut — 
Jetzt kannst du die Glut nicht stillen. 

Preß deinen Mund an meinen Mund; 
Der Menschen Odem ist göttlich! 
Ich trinke deine Seele aus, 
Die Toten sind unersättlich. 

(Thou hast called me from my grave 
By thy bewitching will; 
Made me alive, feel passionate love, 
A passion thou canst never still. 

Press thy mouth close to my cold mouth; 
Man's breath is god-like created. 
I drink thy essence, I drink thy soul, 
The dead can never be sated.) 

I n my psyc ho-analytical „^xperignce of jofiurotics, 
necrophihc tenden cies have further 1 invari able been asso - 
ciated withboth coprop hilic and birth ph antasier Freu jr 
firstj)ointed k)ut the o onnection bet ween the two phantasies 
just named, and this has sinc e been amply con firmed by 
Irriöst observers. On the one hand, faecal material is dead 

1 The connection here implied between sadism and coprophiiia 
is discussed at length in a later paper republished as Chapter XXXI 
of the author's Tapers on Psycho-Analysis', Second Edition. 

2 Freud : Sammlung kleiner Schriften, Zweite Folge, S. 168. 


matter^ that jvvas^^e^art ^ but is now 

decomr^sjnj^_ fact^-lhaLinake Jt easy for an association 
to be formed beteten jt and a corpse : and on the other 
handelt™ is, according to a common i infantile theory', the 
material out of which children are made, and, in the form 
of manure, is a general fertilising principle. JL^e-Joc^-Q* 
undue horror at, ajieaBrbödjjmäy ffiüs betoken ajreyerslQn. 
to the infantile interest ancHondness for faecal^ excremient. 
ThilTexplains the frequency with which the twin motives of 
(i) a dead woman giving birth to a child, and (2) a living 
woman being impregnated by a dead husband, occur in folk- 
lore, literature, mythology and populär belief. 1 Interesting 
indications of both, which need not be detailed here, are 
to be found in von Kleist's short story i Die Marquise von 
O. ' The same combination of coprophilic and birth phan- 
tasy probably underlay his remarkable proposal to Wilhelmine 
von Zenge that they should leave everything eise and adopt 
a peasant's life; as is well known, when she refused to 
fulfil this ( love condition' he heartlessly broke off their 
engagement. Sadger quotes the following passage of his in 
this connection: 'With the Persian magi there was a religious 
law to the effect that a man could do nothing more pleasing 
to the gods than to tili a ßeld } to plant a tree, and to leget 
a child} I call that wisdom, and no truth has yet pene- 
trated so deeply into my soul as this has. That is what 
I ought to do, I am absolutely sure. Oh, Wilhelmine, what 
unspeakable joy there must be in the knowledge that one 
is fulfilling one's destiny entirely in accord with the will 

1 Numerous examples of this are quoted by Harnisch: Zeitschrift 
für deutsche Mythologie y Jahrgang IV, S. 200; Hock: Die Vampyrsagen 
und ihre Verwertung in der deutschen Literatur, 1900, S. 24, 37, 43; 
Horst: Zauber-Bibliothek, 1821, Erster Teil, S. 277; Krauss: Slavische 
Volksforschungen, 1908, S. 130; Sepp: Occident und Orient, 1903^ 
S. 268. 

2 The italics are mine (in this instance only). 


of Nature.' I thus fully agree w ith Sadger 1 when J ie 
ma mtams that this has ( eine versteckte sexuelle Bedeutung' 
( ( a hidden sexual m eanisg^JL have further observed, though 
I TIo not know if it is a general rule, that patients having this 
complex often display an attitude of wonderful tenderness 
towards the object of their love, just like that of a fonq 
mother for her babe; this was very pronounced in von Kleist's 
final outburst of ( dithyrambic rapture ' towards Henriette, 
withjjsj^exc^^ that bordered on lunacy'.' 2 

Sadger further comments on tEe^travelling' significance 
of dying together. The connection between the ideas of 
death and travel is primaeval; one thinks at once^or the 
Grecian and Teutonic myths of the procession of dead souls, 
and of Hamlet's 'undiscovered country, From whose bourn 
no travelTer returns'. Thefact, now becoming generally 
Teöognised since Freud first called attention to its import- 
ance (Die Traumdeutung, 1900), that children essentiaily 
congeive of death as a c going avvav , as ajx^ney^^evi^ 
dentiy v renders this Association a natural and stabj^jcuje. 
With von Kleist it can beH&fougKt into line with his 
curious manfa lEor travÖhng, whicfr seemed "so^obje^Ögss 
and"Tn^plicable'„^o^his ffiehds?iwo motives^in this con- 
nection lie Tairly near the surface. In the first place, death 
is conceivedj^ 

ajand where hidden things will be revealed; I have had 
several religious patients whose cunosity, sexual and other- 
wise, had been largely transferred on to this idea. 8 Sadger 
points out how passionate was von Kleist* s desire to reach 
absolute, certain truth* and quotes his Statement: 'Education 

1 Sadger: op. cit, S. 62. 

2 idem: op. cit, S. 59. 

3 One of my patients eagerly looked forward to discovering in the 
next world the authorship of the L etters of Junius* 

4 Sadger: op. cit, S. 62. 


seemed to me the only goal worthy of endeavour, truth x 
the only wealth worthy of possession.' When he studied 
Kant's destructive criticism of the concept of the Absolute, 
and of a life hereafter^he was_shaken to t^^e^hs of 
Eis being. He wrqte:„_lÄnd my-xmly^thoughty- whi c h my 
soüf in Jthis jitmost tumult Jabour^ 

was always this : thy iW^ jurr^ t|^^ ' 

IiTÖTe secondplace, a journey can be undertaken in Company, 
and it is significant that in von Kleist's fugne-like escapes 
this was practically always so, Sadger traces tnis tendency 
ultimately to the infantile desire to defy the father and 
[escape with the mother to some distant place where he 
cannot disturb their mutual relations; therefore dying together 
,can signify in the unconscious to Üy ~witli~the mother and 
jthus gratify sec ret desires. 2 The travelling ma nia is one_ jof 
lany tendencies that may come to expression in flying 

ireams, ancTTtT^^ to throw 

out a few suggestions. Freud traces the ultimate source 
of these dreams to the pleasurably exciting chasing of 
childhood, 4 and has also laid special stress on the relation 
between bodily movements in general and sexuality. 5 In 
several psycho-analyses I have found associated with this 
various anal-erotic motives, which may therefore furnish 
something towards the later desires. The fact itself that 
the common expression for defaecation is 'movement', and 
for faeces 'motion', points to an inner connection between 

1 On the intimate association between the ideas of truth and nudity 
see Furtmüller; Zeitschrift für Psychoanalyse, 19 13, Bd. I, S. 273. 

2 Sadger: op. cit, S. 60. 

B It is perhaps not without interest that the name of the woman 
with whom von Kleist departed on his endless journey was Vogel (i.e.* Bird '). 

4 Freud: Die Traumdeutung, 2e Aufl., S. 195. 

5 Idem: Drei Abhandlungen, 2e Aufl., S. 53, 54. See also Sadger: 
' Haut-, Schleimhaut- und Muskelerotik ', Jahrbuch der Psychoanalyse, 
Bd. III, S. 525. 


two subjects that at first sight appear to be quite unrelated. 1 
I need not hereT gö into the different grounds for the 
association, but will only remark that when the act of 
defaecation is especially pleasurable it is apt to acquire 
the significance of a sexual 'projecting', 2 just as of urine 
and semen. I have collected much evidence, from both 
actual psycho-analyses and from folk-lore, which I hope 
to detail elsewhere, 3 indicating that (a) this connotation of 
sexual projecting, and of movement in general, is especially 
closely ,aSs&siated in the unconscious with the act of 
passing flatu^,! and (b) that this latter act, on account of 
the idea of penetration to a distance, is sometimes conceived 
of by children as constituting the essential part of coitus, 
which thus consists of expelling flatus into the female cloaca. 
The latter phantasy would, through its association with 
movement (and therefore flying through a gaseous medium 
-the air), be particularly well adapted to find expression, 
together with the other coprophilic, sadistic, and incestuous 
tendencies referred to above, in the love-condition of dying 
together, and I would suggest that it might be worth 
while to investigate future cases of the kind from this 
point of view. 

1 This association plays a prominent part in the common symptom 
known as Reisefieber y and in the allied 'packing' dreams. 

2 It is noteworthy that the common vulgarism for the act is etymo- 
logically cognate with the word 'to shoot'. 

3 Since the present paper was written this has been done in two 
monographs published in the Jahrbiich der Psychoanalyse. 

4 It is noteworthy that the common vulgarism for this both in 
English and in German singularly resembles the German for travel, 
< Fahrt'. 



The following dramatic event, which took place here 2 
this week, seems to lend itself to some considerations of 
psycho-analytical interest. 

A man and wife, aged 32 and 28 respectively, went 
from Toronto to spend a week-end at Niagara Falls. In 
Company with several other people they ventured on to 
the great bridge of ice that forms every winter just at the 
foot of the Falls, and which then joins the American and 
Canadian shores of the river. The ice-bridge began to 
crack and drift from its moorings, and a river-man, who 
knew the locality well and who was on the ice at the 
time, shouted to the others to make for the Canadian 
side where there was more chance of getting ashore. The 
couple in question ignored this advice and rushed towards 
the American shore, but were soon stopped by open 
water. They then ran in the other direction (about 1 50 yards), 
but when about 50 yards from safety the woman feil down 
exhausted, crying 'I can't go on! let us die here!\ The 
husband, aided by another man, dragged her onward 
until they reached the edge. This was three yards from 
the shore, and the intervening water was covered with 

1 Published in the Zentralblatt für Psychoanalyse, May 191 2, 
Jahrgang U, S. 455- 

2 i. e. Toronto. 



soft ice. The river-man begged them to cross this, pointing 
out that the ice would prevent their sinking, and guaranteed 
to bring them to safety; he demonstrated the possibility 
of the feat by crossing himself, and later by returning to 
save another man. The w oman v h owever, declined toJ^jke 

the risk, and her husband refused to go without her. The 
mass of ice now began TcTUrift down the river, breaking 
into smaller pieces as it went, and slowly but surely ap- 
proaching the terrible Rapids that lead to the Niagara 
Whirlpool. In an hour's time they had drifted to where 
a railway bridge crosses the ravine, over 60 yards above 
their heads, and were on the point of being caught up 
by the svvift rapids. A rope, with an iron harpoon_at_lh€ 
end^Jhad _h££ß— 4ower e4^jfrom the Jbgi3^e^cid^*this^ wa: ; 
obviously their last hope of safety. As the ice-floe, now 
moving rapidly, swept under ÜielSridge, the man success- 
fully seized the rope, but apparently the woman refused 
to trust to it unless it was fastened around her. At all 
events the man was seen to be vainly fumbling, with fingers 
numbed by cold, to tie the rope around his wife's waist. 
Failing in this in the short time at his disposal before the 
floe passed onwards, he flung the rope aside, knelt down 
beside the woman and clasped her in his arms; they went 
thus to their death, which was now "only a matter of 

These are the main facts as published in all the 
newspapers. The only additional ones I could discover, 
from a friend of mine who happened to know the coupk 
well, were: that^heyu^gre d^votedly fond of each other 
that they had been married for seven years, and thal 
jhey^J^ never having 

had any children. 

"^^Tli^ husfe^id's conduct does not call for any specia 
comment, being dictated by sufficiently obvious motives 


To these I will only add that he was in the presence of 
a large audience, the banks of the ravine being lined by 
thousands of people who had accumulated during the fate- 
ful hour, and that it would be difficult or impossible for 
a man to hold up his head again if he deserted any 
woman in such a Situation, let alone his own wife. 

There is, however, more to be said about the woman's 
conduct, or rather lack of conduct. It is evident that she 
was throughout overcome by panic and fright, or^clse 
convi nced of th e_Jneyitableness -j^LtheJfate awaiting he r^ 
Her efforts at escape were either paralysed or eise actively 
hindering, and she did not resgond even tOL^th^powerful 
motive of saving herhusband. Now it is known to psycho- 
anäl^sts^ as ^rerrd^first poinfecl out in reference to certain 
dreams, 1 that emotional paralysis is not so much a traumatic 
effect of fright ^a^aT manifestationJBf inhibI£[5jLl ^sultin£ 
Ironfa conflicTbetween a conscious and unconscious impulse. 

A tamüiafexample is that of a woman who cannot protect 
herseif with her whole strength against being raped, part 
of her energy being inhibited by the opposing unconscious 
impulse which is on the side of the assailant. The question 
thus arises whether any such process can be detected in the 
present case. If so then the woman's conduct would have 
to be viewed as expressing an unconscious desire for death, 
in automatic suicide. The available evidHic^"^^~jns>t 
larfatüdTTs^ö meagre~^that any hypothesis of this kind 
must necessarily be very tentative, but when correlated 
with psycho-analytical experience in general the probability 
of its being true is, in my opinion, very considerable. _ 

Thei^_Ja__no reason to believe that any desire for 
deatli that might have existed could have been other than 
symbolic; indeed the description 1 obtained of the woman's 
ptate of mind on the day before the calamity makes the 

1 Freud: Die Traumdeutung, 1900, S. 228. 


idea of any direct suicidal intent highly improbable. We 
have therefore to ask what other ideas could have been 
symbolised by that suicide. It is kno wn through analysis not 
onjy that th ejdgas of sex, birth, and deathare extensivelj^ 
associated with one another, but also that the idea of 
dywg^Tn ffie anns~or^lE^ loved one — g emeinsames 
Sterbest!; — symbolises certain qujte^ sp^fi^^d^sires^jol 
tl^^uncon^o^s i _J5f t h6s(^ wh ich Jhave been gointed out 
especially by Sadger x and myself, 2 one in particular jnay 
be recalled— namely^jthe desire to beget a child with the 
loved_qne. „The unconscious associatiye w connections^ be- 
tw£gn this desire aia<LjTxe notion of common suicide are too> 
rieh and manifold to diseüss liefe; bäsufös which th^yjLre 
fio^r^elt>gnough knpwn^to justify one in assuming an. 
understanding of theni in expert circles. I will therefore 
dontent myself with indicatifig some oT^the respects in 
which the present Situation was adapted for supporting this 
associative connection. 

The association between Niagara and death, especially 
sujcjcfö^ is oite that hasTfbeen enforced by ^jcdimHessly 
repeated experiences. Tt is not so generally known, how- 
6verpfEat the association between it and birth is also very 
intimate. Niag_ara is a favourjjte^onejiiioo 
more so for Toronto peqple Jhan for those of other places 
in the neighbourhood, on aecount of the romantic iourney 
thither jacrogs the Xake of Ontario. So much is this so 
that^Niagara town is commonly known — in Toronto a± 
all events — as^^the^aby City', from tfie high percentage of 
cönee^^ The couple in 

question were very fond of spending their holidays there, the 
unconscious attraction being possibly the same as that which 
drew women of old to the Temple of Aesculapius_and 

1 Sadger : HeinrictTvon Kleist, 1910, S. 59-62. 

2 Chapter II of these Essays. 


w hich st ill draws women to various healing waters. They 
had never been there Before in^~winter~~Time, a~rather 
stränge circumstance, for it is almost as populär wiih 
Toronto people in the winter as in the summer because 
of the beautiful ice effects to be seen at that time. It is 
conceivable that they were this time drawn by the idea 
of winter (death, cold, etc.) which was beginning to cor- 
/tespond with their attitude of hopelessness about ever 
getting a child. 

Coming next to the calamity itself we see how similar 
was the conscious affect investing the two ideas which we 
suppose became associated; the hope of giving birth töa child 
fcas almost as small as that of escaping from the threatened 
ioom. That this doom was one of drowning — in the 
horrible form of being swept under in an ice-cold whirl- 
pool — is a circumstance of considerable significance in 
the light of all we know about the sy mbo lic meaning_of 
water in general and of drowning in particular (cp. Freud, 

to one as constituting a dreanTone would have no hesit- 
ation In interpreting it _as_a^ childbirth fantasy qF_a^sfef2e 
woman, the floating on a block q^~Ice^m a dangerpus 
current of wafer, in compan^wTtE the lover^ iasight pf 
all the world and yet isöläted™ from it, the threatening 
cataströpFe"~oT drowning, and the rapid movement of being 
pTgsiv^IyHsWgp^ article referred to above 

I have Insisted on Jthe^ jignificance of jBXLvementJn _Üi\s 
conSecHonp-all this forms a perfect picture. 

Though the actual Situation was noF'a dream but a 
grim reality, nevertheless the circumstances detailed above 
are just such as would, especially in a moment of acute 
emotion, strongly apgeal to the laterit.xoi^lex„in.^ugstioLa 
and stimulate it to activi ty. It sh ouldJbs^ that 

in times of despair (defeat, severe 


snfeeblement, approaching death, and so on) there is a 
aniversal tendenc^to fly from reality by haying^r^ 
tKe^iIÜpitive System of t^ughtXEi^eud's primary Lustprinzip, 
fung's phantastisches Denken) , mostly injthe form of infantile^ 
tv^es_jrelaÜBg to tl^_njotiierf"jndeed_I have g lsewher e 1 
expressed the opinion that the idea of personal death does 
tToFexist Ifer-lfe^-u^ by 

th at oT^exusJ^ ommun ion or of birth. We may thus 
imagine the woman in question as reactin g to her fnghlfiil 
Situation by rapidly transformi ng it in the unco nscious and 
replacing reajity by th e fantasy of the gr atificat ion of her 
deepest desire. The externa! outcome L„QjLthisL.act__ j^f jtrans^ 
formatfön illustrates very well the contrast between the 
practical value of the ple asure principle and that of the 
reafity princigliZI- ---- 

"""*"""" One might speculate whether the outcome would have 
been different if the woman's thoughts concerning child- 
birth had been more accustomed to assume the common 
form of the fantasy of saving, or of being saved. 3 It is 
even possible that this fantasy was operative, and that her 
objection to being saved by the river-man and by the men 
who were holding the rope from the bridge was due 
f undamentally to her excess ive marital fidelity, to h er deter- 
mination that no one should save her except her husband. 
But at this jpomt_our^ speculaHons become so filmy~as~Eö 
float away into the region of the completely unknown. 

1 Journal of Abnormal Psychologe, April, 191 2. 

2 See Freud : * Die zwei Prinzipien des psychischen Geschehens ', 
Jahrbuch der Psychoanalyse y Bd. III, S. 1. 

3 See Chapter X of my Papers on Psycho-Analysis, 1918. 




In the course of some highiy suggestive remarks on the 
subject of superstition Freud 2 writes: l I take it that this 
conscious ignorance and unconscious knowledge of the 
motivation of psychical accidents is one of the psychical 
roots of superstition.' He maintains in general that the 
undue significance attached by the superstitious to casual 
external happenings arises from associative connections that 
exist between these and important thoughts and wishes of 
which the subject is quite unaware, and that it constitutes 
a projection of the significance really belonging to these 
unconscious thoughts: the feeling of significance, therefore, 
is fully justified, though it has been displaced into a false 
connection. The object of the present communication is to 
examine in the light of this thesis one of the most familiär 
and wide-spread of superstitions — namely, the belief that it 
is unlucky to spill salt at table. In doing so the endeavour 
will be made to use the inductive method only, that is to 
say, to construct hypotheses only when they appear to be 
legitimate inferences from definitely ascertained facts and 

1 Published in Imago, 191 2, Bd. I, S. 361 and 454. 

2 Freud: Zur Psychopathologie des Alltagslebens, 1904, S. 82. 


then to test them in their capacity to resume the whole 
ränge of accessible evidence. 

Two primary considerations may be mentioned at the 
outset First that in all ages salt has been invested with a 
significance far exceeding that inherent in its natural pro- 
perties, interesting and important as these are. Homer calls 
it a divine substance, Plato describes it as especially dear 
to the Gods, 1 and we shall presently note the importance 
attached to it in religious ceremonies, covenants, and 
magical charms. That this should have been so in all 
parts of the world and in all times shews that we are 
dealing with a general human tendency and not with 
any local custom, circumstance or notion. Secondly, the 
idea of salt has in different languages lent itself to a 
remarkable profusion of metaphorical connotations, so that 
a study of these suggests itself as being likely to indicate 
what the idea has essentially stood for in the human 
mind, and hence perhaps the source of its exaggerated 

We may begin by considering the chief characteristic 
properties of salt that have impressed themselves on populär 
thought and have in this way become associated with more 
general ideas of an allied nature. Perhaps the most prominent 
of these is the durability of salt and its immimity agaznst 
decay. On account of this property salt was regarded as 
emblematic of durability and permanence, 2 and hence of 
eternity and immortality; 3 in the middle ages it was thought 
that the devil for this reason detested salt. 4 In connection 
with eternity is also mentioned the idea of wisdom, which 

* Plutarch : Morals (Goodwin's English Edition), 1870, Vol. II, p. 338. 

2 Lawrence: The Magic of the Horse-Shoe : with other Folk-Lore 
Notes, 1899, Ch. III, 'The Folk-Lore of Common Salt,' p. 157. 

3 Seligmann : Der böse Blick und Verwandtes, 1910, Bd. H, S. 33. 

4 Bodin: De la Dämonomanie des Sorciers, 1593, p. 278. 



salt is likewise supposed to symbolise, 1 though Pitre 2 says 
that this comes merely from a play on the words sedes 
sapientiae and sale e sapienza. Brand, 3 however, quotes an 
introductory address delivered at a German university in 
the seventeenth Century that seems to shew an intrinsic 
connection between the two ideas: 'The sentiments and 
opinions both of divines and philosophers concur in making 
salt the emblem of wisdom or learning) and that not only 
on account of what it is composed of, but also with respect 
to the several uses to which it is applied. As to its com- 
ponent parts, as it consists of the purest matter, so ought 
wisdom to be pure, sound, immaculate, and incorruptible : 
and similar to the effects which salt produces upon bodies 
ought to be those of wisdom and learning upon the mind.' 
This explanation of the association between the ideas of 
salt and wisdom sounds a little too strained to be altogether 
convincing and suggests that perhaps there may be other 
determining factors besides those just mentioned. Wisdom 
was frequently personified holding a salt-cellar, and the 
bestowal of Sal Sapientiae, the Salt of Wisdom, is still a 
formality in the Latin Church. The heavenly Sophia appears 
in mystical science as sodium, and her colour is yellow, the 
colour of burning salt 4 

The idea of durability in regard to salt is evidently 
an important cause of the old association between it and 
the topic of friendship and loyalty} Owing to its lasting 

1 Collin de Plancy: Dictionnaire Infernal, 1818, t. II, p. 278; 
Lawrence: ibid. 

2 Pitre: Usi e costumi, credenze e pregiudizi del popolo Siciliano, 
1889, Vol. in, p. 426. 

3 Brand : Observations on the Populär Antiquities of Great Britain, 
1849, Vol. 1, p. 433. 

4 Bayley: The Lost Language of Symbolism, 1912, Vol. I, p. 228.. 

5 See Victor Hehn : Das Salz. Eine kulturhistorische Studie, 2e Aufl., 
1901, S. 10-12. 


and incorruptible quality it was regarded as the emblem of 
perpetual friendship/ and from this several secondary mean- 
ings are derived. One corollary, for instance, is that the 
spilling of salt is supposed to involve a quarre! or breaking 
of friendship. 2 Salt has played an important part in matters 
of hospitality. Stuckius 3 teils us that the Muscovites thought 
a prince could not shew a stranger a greater mark of 
affection than by sending to him salt from his ovvn table. 
In Eastern countries it is a time-honoured custom to place 
salt before strangers as a token and pledge of friendship 
and good-will, 1 and in Europe it was usually presented to 
guests before other food, to signify the abiding strength 
of friendship. 5 When an Abyssinian desires to pay an 
especially delicate attention to a friend or guest he pro- 
duces a piece of rock-salt and graciously permits the latter 
to lick it with his tongue. b In the most diverse countries 
and at all ages, from Ancient Greece to modern Hungary, 
salt has been used to con/irm oaths and compacts\ according 
to Lawrence, 4 in the East, at the present day, compacts 
between tribes are still confirmed by salt, and the most 
solemn pledges are ratified by this substance.' Such com- 
pacts are inviolable, and in the same way *to eat a man's 
salt/ a phrase still in current use, carries with it the 
Obligation of loyalty ; during the Indian mutiny of 1857 a 
chief motive of restraint among the Sepoys was said to 

x Brand: op. cit, Vol. III, p. 162; Lawrence: op. cit, pp. 169, 171. 

2 Wuttke: Der deutsche Volksaberglaube der Gegenwart, Dritte 
Bearbeitung, 1900, S. 211; Brand: loc. cit. 

3 Stuckius: Antiquitatum Convivialium, 1690, S. 17. 

4 Lawrence: op. cit., p. 156. 
r > Lawrence: op. cit., p. 169. 
Lawrence: op. cit, p. 188. 

7 Schieiden: Das Salz. Seine Geschichte, seine Symbolik und seine 
Bedeutung im Menschenleben, 1875, S. 71-3; Lawrence: op. cit, 
pp. 164-6. 


have been the fact that they had sworn by their salt to 
be loyal to the Queen. 1 Byron, in 'The Corsair', refers to 
this group of beliefs as follows: 

Why dost thou shun the salt? that sacred pledge, 
Which, once partaken, blunts the sabre's edge, 
Makes even contending tribes in peace unite,5 
And hated hosts seem brethren to the sight! 

Closely allied to the preceding feature of incorrup- 
tibility is the capacity salt possesses of preservi?ig other 
bodies front decay. It is generally supposed that this is the 
reason for the power salt has of warding off the devil and 
other malignant demons, who have a horror of it. 2 The 
same property has also greatly aided in establishing the 
association between salt and immortality; the connection is 
plainly seen in the Egyptian custom of using salt for 
embalming. It is one reason for the custom, obtaining 
until recently in every part of Great Britain, of placing 
salt on a corpse; 3 usually earth was added, 'the earth being 
an emblem of the corruptible body, the salt an emblem of 
the immortal spirit/ In later years this was said to be done 
so as to prevent decomposition, 4 an idea probably akin to 
the original one. A Welsh elaboration of the custom was 
to place a plate of bread and salt over the coffin (the 
combination of bread and salt will be discussed later); the 
professional 'sin-eater' of the district then arrived, mur- 
mured an incantation and ate the salt, thereby taking upon 
himself all the sins of the deceased. 5 

1 Manley: Salt and other Condiments, p. 90. 

2 Conway: Demonology and Devil-Lore, 1879, Vol. I, p. 288; 
Moresin: Papatus, etc., 1594, p. 154; Bodin: loc. cit. 

8 Dalyell: The Darker Superstitions of Scotland, 1835, p. 102; 
Sikes: British Goblins, 1880, p. 328; Brand: op. cit, Vol. II, pp. 234, 235. 
4 Brand and Sikes: loc. cit. 
6 Sikes: op. cit, pp. 324, 326. 


An important conception of salt is that of its con- 
stituting the essence of things, particularly of life itself. This 
seems to include two sub-ideas, those of necessary presence 
and of value respectively. The idea of ultimate essence 
no doubt underlies the Biblical phrase (Matthew v. 13) 
( Ye are the salt of the earth', and in many other express- 
ions it is used in the sense ot aristocratic, quintessential, 
and the like. 1 In alchemy salt was considered to be one 
of the three ultimate elements out of which the seven 
noble metals were generated. Mercury symbolised the spirit, 
sulphur the soul, and salt the body; mercury represented 
the act of illumination, sulphur that of union, and salt that 
of purification. Herrick, in his Hesperides (p. 394), ranks 
salt even more highly: 

The body's salt the soule is, which when gone, 
The flesh soone sucks in putrefaction. 

In Ancient Egypt salt and a burning candle represented 
life, and were placed over a dead body to express the 
ardent desire of prolonging "the life of the deceased. 2 The 
following argument was employed by Latin writers, e. g. 
Plutarch: 'After death all parts of the body fall apart. In 
life the soul maintains the parts intact and in connection 
with one another. In the same way salt maintains the dead 
body in its form and connection, thus representing — so to 
speak — the soul.' 8 The culmination of eulogies, in which 
the idea of value is also prominent, is to be found in a 
treatise on salt, published in 1770, where the writer 
launches forth in impassioned style the most extravagant 
encomiums upon this substance, which he avers to be 

1 Oxford English Dictionary, Vol. VD3, p. 59. 

2 Moresin: op. cit, p. 89. 
8 ibid. 


the quintessence of the earth. Salt is here characterised 
as a Treasure of Nature, an Essencc of Perfection, and 
the Paragon of Preservatives. Moreover, whoever possesses 
salt thereby secures a prime factor of human happiness 
among material things. 1 

Salt is closely associated with the idea of money or 
wealth, and indeed this is one of the connotations of the word. 
Nowadays the implication is even of excessive or unfairly 
high value, as in the colloquial phrase ' a salt or salty 
price'; similarly in French ' il me l'a bien sale' means 4 he 
has charged me an excessive price '. In commercial circles 
the expression ' to salt a mine or property ' means to add 
a small quantity of some valuable substance to it so as 
artificially to raise its selling price. In Ancient Rome 
soldiers and officials were paid in salt instead of money, 
whence (from salarium) the modern words ' salair ' and 'salary ' 
and the phrase ( to be worth one's salt ' ( = to be capable, 
to earn one's salary). A salt currency was in vogue in Africa 
in the sixth Century, and in the middle ages this was so 
also in England, 2 as well as in China, Tibet, and other 
parts of Asia. 3 The name of the Austrian coin ' Heller ' is 
derived from an old German word for salt, * Halle'. 4 The 
Montem ceremony at Eton, 5 which consisted in collecting 
money in exchange for salt, was continued until 1847. 
Salt-Silver was the term used to denote the money paid 
by tenants to their lord as a commutation for the service 
of bringing him salt from market. 6 In parts of Germany 
the game is played of placing some sand, some salt, and 

1 Elias Artista Hermetica: Das Geheimnis vom Salz, 1770. 

2 Brand : op. cit, Vol. I, p. 436. 

:; Schieiden : op. cit., S. 68-70, 82. 
4 Hehn : op. cit, S. 90. 
r> Brand: op. cit, pp. 433-40. 
Brand : op. cit., p. 403. 


a green leaf on the table and making a blind-folded person 
grope for them ; if he seizes the salt it denotes wealth. 1 
These and other considerations have invested the idea 
of salt in the populär mind with a sense of gener al import- 
ance. Waldron 2 states that in the Isle of Man { no person 
will go out on any material affair without taking some salt 
in their pockets, much less remove from one house to 
another, marry, put out a child, or take one to nurse, 
without salt being mutually exchanged; nay, though a poor 
person be almost famished in the streets, he will not 
accept any food you will give him, unless you join salt to 
the rest of your benevolence '. To carry salt with one 
on moving to a new dwelling is a very wide-spread 
custom; 3 it is related that when the poet Burns, in 1789, 
was about to occupy a new house at Ellisland, he was 
escorted there by a procession of relatives in whose midst 
was carried a bowl of salt. 4 The Arabs of Upper Egypt, 
before setting out on a journey, burn salt to prevent ill- 
luck. 5 The laying of salt at the table was in the middle 
ages a tremendous ceremony. The other implements 
were disposed with minute care in their relation to the 
salt, which throughout was treated with special deference. 6 
With the Romans it was a matter of religious principle 
that no other dish was placed upon the table until the 
salt was in position. Rank and precedence among the 
guests were precisely indicated by their seat above or 
below the salt and their exact distance from it. Schieiden 7 
remarks: ( How great was the importance attached to 

1 Wuttke : op. cit, S. 233. 

2 Waldron: Description of the Isle of Man, 1725, p. 187. 
Wuttke: op. cit, S. 396. 

4 Rogers : Scotland, Social and Domestic, 1869, Vol. 111, p. 288. 

3 Burckhardt: Travels in Nubia, 1822, p. 169. 

6 Lawrence : op. cit., pp. 197-205. 

7 Schieiden: op. cit, S. 70. 


salt is also seen from the fact that hardly a place 
existed in which salt was produced where this was not 
expressed in the name of the place, from the Indian 
Lavanäpura ("Salt-town") and the Austrian Salzburg 
("Salt-town") to the Prussian Salzkotten and the Scottish 
Salt-coats. ' 

The high importance attaching to salt led to various 
magical powers being ascribed to it, and it has been very 
extensively employed in magical procedures. It could be 
used for these and other purposes by placing it on the 
tongue or by rubbing the body with it, but the favourite 
method was to dissolve it in water and bathe the person 
with this. The principal function of salt in this connection, 
like that of most other charms, was to ward off härm, 
chiefly by averting the influence of malignant spirits. Salt 
is almost universally thought to be abhorrent to evil 
demons, 1 the only exception I know of being in Hungarian 
folk-lore, where on the contrary evil beings are fond of 
salt. 2 Salt was always missing from the devil's and witches' 
banquets. 3 Salt has therefore been one of the staple charms 
against the power of the devil, 4 of magicians, 5 of witches, 6 
of the evil eye, 7 and of evil influences in general: 8 such 
beliefs are found in countries so far apart as Arabia 9 

1 Bodin: loc. cit; Collin de Plancy: op. cit, pp. 277, 278; Schieiden: 
op. cit., S. 78. 

2 Lawrence: op. cit, p. 159. 

8 Wright: Sorcery and Magic, 1851, p. 310. 

4 Bodin and Collin de Plancy: loc. cit. 

5 Grimm: Deutsche Mythologie, Vierte Ausgabe, 1876, S. 876. 

6 Krauss: Slavische Volksforschungen, 1908, S. 39; Mannhardt; 
Germanische Mythen, 1858, S. 7; Seligmann: op. cit, Band II, S. 33; 
Wuttke: op. cit, S. 95, 258, 283. Grimm: op. cit, Nachtrag, S. 454. 

7 Seligmann: op. cit, Band I, S. 312, 313, 320, 331, 344, 346, 365, 
377, 389; Band II, S. 73, 144, 220, 376. 

8 Lawrence: op. cit, p. 177. 

9 Burckhardt: loc. cit 


and Japan. 1 Cattle are also protected against witchcraft in 
the same way. 2 In India and Persia one can even deter- 
mine by means of salt whether a given person has been 
bewitched or not. 8 Salt will also protect the fields from 
evil influences. 4 It was further used to prevent the souls 
of the dead from returning to earth and to secure them 
peace in Purgatory. 5 

These practices were performed with especial fre- 
quency with children. The custom of rubbing new-born 
infants with salt is referred to in the Bible (Ezekiel 
xvi, 4). The use of salt to guard the new-born against 
evil demons and evil influences, either by placing a little 
on the tongue or by immersing the infant in salt and 
water, was in vogue throughout Europe from early times, 
and certainly antedated Christian baptism; 6 in France the 
custom lasted until 1408 of putting salt on children unti 
they were baptised, when it was considered no longer 
necessary. 7 At the present day it is still placed in the cradle 
of the new-born child in Holland. 8 In Scotland it was 
customary to put salt into a child' s mouth on entering a 
stranger's house for the first time. 9 Salt was also placed in 
the mouth of a new-born calf for similar purposes as with 
children. 10 

1 Bousquet: Le Japon de nos jours, 1877, t. I, p. 94; Griffis: The 
Mikado's Empire. 

2 Seligmann: op. cit, Band II, S. 104, 241, 329; Wuttke: op. cit, 
S. 40, 435, 438; Krauss: loc. cit. 

8 Seligmann; op. cit, Band I, S. 262, 264. 

4 Seligmann: op. cit, Band II, S. 374. 

5 Wuttke: op. cit, S. 465, 472. 

6 Conway: op. cit, Vol. II, p. 217; Lawrence: op. cit, pp. 174, 
175; Seligmann: op. cit, S. 34; Wuttke: op. cit, S. 382, 387. 

7 Schieiden: op. cit, S. 79. 

8 New York Times y November 10, 1889. 

9 Dalyell: op. cit, p. 96. 

10 Seligmann: op. cit, S. 58; Wuttke; op. cit S. 436, 443. 


Salt has been extensively used for medicinal purposes. 
It was believed to have the function of both preventing 1 
and curing 2 diseases, as was already commented on by 
Pliny, particularly those caused by occult influences. It is 
possible that the Latin word 'salus' (=health), the earliest 
connotation of which was Svell-preserved', was originally 
related to the word ( sal\ 

Another important function of salt was its use in furthering 
fecundity. As this obviously cannot have been derived from 
any natural property of the substance, it must represent 
some symbolic significance in harmony with the general 
importance attached to it. Schieiden 3 makes the following 
interesting remarks in this connection : ' The sea was unquestion- 
ably the fructifying, creative element. Leaving aside the 
few marine mammals, the offspring of sea creatures are to 
be counted by thousands and hundreds of thousands. This 
was all the more easily ascribed to the salt of the sea, 
since other observations believed to have been made were 
connected with it. It was recalled that in dog-breeding the 
frequent use of salt increased the number of the progeny, 
and that on ships carrying salt the number of mice multiplied 
to such an extent as to give risetotheideaofparthenogenesis, 
i. e. to the view that mice could beget young without the 
Cooperation of a male. The conviction was thus formed that 
salt must stand in a close relation to physical love, so that 
salt became the symbol of procreation. ' It was used in this 
connection in two ways, to promote fecundity and to avertf 
barrenness or impotence. The latter is illustrated by Elisha's 
action of throwing salt into the fountain of Jericho (2 Kings 
ii. 21): 4 Thus saith the Lord, I have healed these waters; 

1 Wuttke: op. cit, vS. 374. 

2 Dalyell: op. cit, pp. 98, 99, 102; Lawrence: op. ci 
Seligmann: op. cit, Band I, S. 278; Wuttke: op. cit, S. 336. 

3 Schieiden: op. cit, S. 92, 93. 


In Bavaria to obtain a rieh harvest the first load is sprinkled 
with salt and water. 1 

It is only natural that the general importance attached 
to salt should have been reflected in the sphere of religion, 
and we find that this was so in a remarkable degree. Salt 
was an essential constituent of sacrificial offerings in Ancient 
Egypt, 2 as well as in Greece and Rome; 3 Brand says of 
the latter: 'Both Greeks and Romans mixed salt with their 
sacrificial cakes; in their lustrations also they made use of 
salt and water, which gave rise in after times to the 
superstition of holy water. ' In Judaism we find descriptions 
of three different usages taught by the Bible. As in other 
countries, salt formed a necessary part of sacrificial offerings : 
'Every oblation of thy meat offering shalt thou season with salt; 
neither shalt thou suffer the salt of the covenant of thy God to be 
lacking from thy meat offering : With all thine offerings thou shalt 
offer salt' (Leviticus ii. 13). 4 A covenant, especially a religious 
covenant, was ratified by means of salt: ( Itis a covenant of salt 
for ever, before the Lord' (Numbers xviii. 19); 'The Lord 
God of Israel gave the kingdom over Israel to David for 
ever, even to him, and to his sons, by a covenant of salt' 
(2 Chronicles xiii. 5). The idea of a bond of loyal ty through 
eating salt also oecurs: the passage 'we have maintenance 
from the king's palace' (Ezra iv. 14) means literally ( we 
are salted with the salt of the palace.' 5 The salt sources 
in Germany, which later became associated with the doings ot 
witches, had a considerable religious significance; Ennemoser 6 

1 Wuttke: op. cit, S. 423. 

2 Arrian: De Expeditione Alexandra, lib. iii, cap. 1. 
8 Brand: op. cit., Vol. III, p. 161. 

4 In Job i. 22, the literal rendering of the passage 'In all this 
Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly' is 'In all this Job sinned 
not, nor gave God unsalted'. (Conway: op. cit., Vol. U, p. 150.) 

5 Lawrence: op. cit, p. 156. 

6 Ennemoser; Geschichte der Magie, Zweite Aufl., 1844, S. 839. 


writes of them: 'their yield was regarded as a direct 
gift of the near Divinity, and the winning and distributing 
of the salt as a holy occupation — probably sacrifices and 
folk festivities were connected with the drying of the salt.' 
In the Roman Catholic Church salt was introduced for 
baptismal purposes in the fourth Century 1 and has played 
a prominent part there ever since. 2 According to Schieiden, 3 
this was derived from the Jewish use of salt at the 
circumcision rite. The celebration of baptism in Scotland 
by a layman was afterwards confirmed by a priest admin- 
istering a particle of salt. 4 Gratian, in his Decretalia, 
explains that the use of consecrated salt in the mouth of 
one about to be baptised is to render the rite more 
efficacious. 5 In the baptismal ceremonies of the Church 
of England in mediaeval times salt was placed in the 
chikTs mouth, and its ears and nostrils were touched with 
saliva — practices which became obsolete at the time of the 
Reformation. 6 As a rule, however, salt is applied in the 
dissolved State, the well-known ( Salzstein ', 7 composed of 
salt and water that has been separately blessed before- 
hand. The holy water thus constituted was extensively 
used in both Catholic and Protestant countries, and for 
the identical purposes for which simple salt and water had 
previously been used by the common people, the only 
difference being that the latter was not quite so efficacious 
as the consecrated mixture. Thus it was officially employed 
by the Roman Catholic Church for profiting the health of 

1 Pfannenschmid : Das Weihwasser im heidnischen und christlichen 
Cultus, 1870. 

2 See Lawrence: op. cit, p. 182. 
8 Schieiden: op. cit, S. 76. 

4 Dalyell : op. cit., p. 97. 
B Cited by Dalyell : loa cit. 

6 Lawrence: op. cit, p. 176. 

7 Seligmann: op. cit, Band I, S. 322; Wuttke: op. cit, S. 142, 


the body and for the banishing of demons, 1 by the English 
Church to prevent the devil from entering churches and 
dwellings, 2 and by the Scottish Church for expelling demons, 
for sanctifying religious rites, and to prevent new-born 
babies from becoming changelings. 3 Holy water was also 
used, and to some extent is still used, to avert the evil 
eye, 4 to prepare for a journey, 5 to eure demoniac possess- 
ion, 6 to make the cattle thrive, 7 to prevent witches from 
turning the butter sour, 8 and to ensure the fortunate 
delivery of a pregnant cow. 9 In the same connection may 
be mentioned certain African taboos concerning salt. A 
demon who inhabited a lake in Madagascar was so averse 
from salt that whenever any was being carried past the 
lake it had to be called by another name, or it would all 
have been dissolved and lost. 10 A West African story 
relates how a man was told that he would die if ever the 
word 'salt* was pronounced in his hearing; one day the 
fatal word was pronounced, amd he promptly died. 11 

We may now consider another attribute of salt which 
has given rise to many symbolic connotatioiis — namely, 
its peculiar taste. Seligman 12 says : ' Salt is on aecount of 
its piquant power a life-furthering material', and he 
associates with this the beliefs in the influence exerted by 

1 Gaume : loc. cit. ; Moresin: op. cit, pp. 153, 154. 

2 Ady : A Perfect Discovery of Witches, 1661. 

3 Napier: Folk Lore, or Superstitious Beliefs in the West ofScot- 
land within this Century, 1879. 

4 Seligmann: op. cit, Band I, S. 325; Band II, S. 315, 30. 

5 Wuttke: loc. cit. 

6 Reginald Scot: The Discoverie of Witchcraft, 1584, p. 178. 

7 Wuttke : op. cit, S. 439. 

8 Wuttke : op. cit, S. 448. 

9 Wuttke: op. cit, S. 142. 

10 Sibree: The Great African Island, 1880, p. 307. 

11 Nassau: Fetichism in West Africa, 1904, p. 381. 

12 Seligmann : op. cit., Band I, S. 278. 


salt when it penetrates into other substances, c. g. bread, 
and also the belief in its capacity to eure disease. This 
property of salt has been especially connected with speech 
in various metaphorical ways. Lawrence 1 writes: 4 Owing 
to the importance of salt as a relish, its Latin name sal 
came to be used metaphorically as signifying a savoury 
mental morse], and, in a general sense, wit 01* sarcasm . . . 
The characterization of Greece as the "salt of nations " 
is attributed to Livy, and this is probably the origin of 
the phrase u Attic salt", meaning delicate, refined wit/ 
A pungent or pithy remark or jest is termed salt, 2 as in 
such expressions as ' there is no salt in his witticisms ', 
though the use of the word in this sense is becoming 
obsolescent in English; in French a similar one obtains, 
in expressions such as 'une epigramme sale', ' il a repandu 
le sei ä pleines mains dans ses ecrits', etc. In the Biblical 
passage (Epistle to the Corinthians iv. 6) ( Let your 
speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt' this 
connotation is probably present, as well as that previously 
mentioned of wisdom or sense. The same metaphor is 
also applied in a general way, apart from speech, as in 
denoting an insipid man as 'having no sense or salt', 
lacking in piquancy or liveliness, just as in Latin the word 
insalsus ( = unsalted) meant stupid. This metaphorical 
attribute of salt is evidently closely akin to the one 
previously mentioned of ( essentialness'. 

A property of salt that has been extensively exploited 
by the populär imagination is the ease with which it 
dissolves in zvater. That a substance otherwise so durable 
should disappear when put into water and, though leaving 
no visible trace of its presence, should endow the water 
with its peculiar properties (capacity to preserve from 

1 Lawrence; op. cit, p. 161. See also Schieiden: op. cit, S. 91, 

2 See Oxford English Dictionary, loc. cit. 


decay, pungent taste, etc.) has always impressed the people 
as being a remarkable characteristic, and is perhaps partly 
responsible for the mysterious significance attaching to holy 
water. One obvious practical application, of which frequent 
use has been made, is to estimate the amount of moisture 
in the atmosphere by the varying avidity of salt for it. 
It has thus been quite rationally used to foretell the weather} 
From this have been derived the following symbolical uses 
of it for the same purpose. 2 An onion is cut into twelve 
pieces, which are strewn with salt and named after the 
twelve months; the piece that becomes specially moist 
denotes a wet month in the coming year. The same may 
be done with twelve nutshells, which have to be examined 
at midnight. Or a piece of salt is placed on each corner 
of the table to denote the four seasons of the year; the 
one that has collected most moisture by the morning 
indicates the wettest season. The last-mentioned practice 
is also used to find out if the Coming harvest will be 
valuable or not. 3 This foretelling capacity of salt has 
naturally been generalised far beyond its original sphere. 
Thus, according as a particular heap of salt remains dry 
or not it is concluded that a corresponding person will or 
will not survive the coming year, that a given undertaking 
will be successful or the reverse, and so on. 4 

Water is not the only substance into which salt can 
be absorbed with the production of peculiar changes. 
Indeed, the capacity of salt to enter into combination with 
a second substance may be regarded as one of its most 
salient characteristics. The substance with which it is by 
far the most often associated in this way is bread. The 

1 Willsford: Nature's Secrets, p. 139. 

2 Wuttke: op. cit, S. 231. 
8 Wuttke: op. cit, S. 230. 
4 Wuttke: op. cit, S. 231. 


combination of the two has been used for practically all 
the purposes enumerated above in connection with salt, 
and in folk beliefs the two are almost synonymous. Thus 
bread and salt are both absent from the devil's feasts; 1 
the combination of them is potent against witches, 2 and 
against the evil eye; 3 it guards cattle against disease, 4 
ensures a plentiful supply of milk, 5 and removes obstacles 
to the churning of butter. It is equally efficacious with 
adults and infants. It is carried into a new dwelling to 
avert evil influences and to bring good luck; 7 in Hamburg 
nowadays this custom is replaced by that of carrying at 
processional times a cake covered with chocolate, in the 
form of a bread roll, and a salt-cellar of marzipan filled 
with sugar. The combination of salt and bread has also 
been extensively used to confirm oaths, 8 and is still so 
used in Arabia at the present day.° 

The mixture of wheat and salt was used for the same 
purpose as that of bread and salt. It was an important 
part of the Roman propitiatory sacrifices, 10 and also of the 
Jewish oblations. 11 In Russia it was offered as congratulatory 
to strangers, 12 as we have seen salt alone was in other 

1 Grimm : op, cit, S. 877. 

2 Seligmann: op. eil., Band II, S. 37, 52, 93, 94; Grimm: op. cit, 
Nachtrag, S. 454; Wuttke : op. cit, S. 129, 282. 

3 Wuttke : op. cit, S. 282 ; Seligmann : op. cit., Band I, S. 398 ; 
Band II, S. 37, 38, 93, 94, 100, 250, 334. 

4 Dalyell: op. cit, p. 100. 

5 Seligmann: op. cit, Band II, S. 38; Dalyell: loc. cit. 

6 Seligmann: loc. cit. 

7 Seligmann: op. cit, S. 37. 

8 Dekker's Honest Whore, 1635, Sc. 13; Blackwood's Edinburgh 
Magazine^ Vol. I, p. 236 ; Lawrence : op. cit., p. 164. 

9 Lawrence: op. cit, p. 185. 

10 Brand: op. cit, Vol. III, p. 163; Dalyell: op. cit., pp. 99, 100. 

11 Dalyell: op. cit, p. 99. 

12 Dalyell: loc. cit. 



countries. In Ireland women in the streets, and girls from 
the Windows, sprinkled salt and wheat on public functionaries 
when they assumed office. 1 

JLastly may be mentioned the attribute of salt as a 
means of purification. That salt water possesses this quality 
in a high degree was observed at an early stage of 
civilisation, and by Roman ladies it was actually regarded 
as a means of attaining beauty. 2 Especially in regard to 
the sea this feature has led to numerous poetical applications 
and also to the development of many superstitions. It is 
intelligible that this purifying attribute should have played 
an important part in the use of salt in religious cults, and 
this we find was so, notably in Egypt and Greece. 3 We 
shall return to the subject later on when discussing the 
relation of purification to baptism. 


We may now survey the facts just related. While it 
has only been possible in the allotted space to give a 
relatively few examples of the numerous ways in which 
ideas concerning salt have played a part in folk belief and 
custom — it would need a special treatise to record them 
all— it is probable that the most prominent and typical of 
them have been mentioned; at all events no special selection 
whatever has been made, beyond relegating sexual ones to 
the background. It is hardly necessary to say that the 
grouping here adopted is unduly schematic, being one ot 
convenience in presentation only; a given custom would 
mostly be dictated by interest in other properties of salt 
as well as the one under which it is here mentioned. 

1 Brand: op. cit, p. 165; Dalyell: loc. cit. 

2 Schieiden: op. cit, S. 84. 

3 Schieiden: op. cit, S. 84, 85. 


In regard now to the matter that formed our starting- 
point — namely, the superstitious fear of Spilling salt — it is 
piain that here a significance is attached to an act which 
does not inherently belong to it, and it is equally piain 
that the same is true of most of the customs and beliefs 
related above. There are two possible explanations that 
may be offered for this State of affairs. The first would 
run somewhat as follows. The present-day superstition has 
no meaning beyond an historical one; it is simply an 
instance of the tendencv of mankind to retain traditional 
attitudes for no intelligible reason, and is an echo of th e 
time when the idea of salt was properly (nvested wifo a 
greater psychical value than it now is. In former times the 
significance attached to the idea of salt that we now 
regard as excessive was not so, being justified in fact and 
to be accounted for quite naturally by the real importance 
of the substance. There is undeniably a certain amount ot 
truth in this view. Salt, being a substance necessary to 
life and in some countries obtainable only with considerable 
difficulty, 1 was inevitably regarded as both important and 
valuable, though this consideration must lose much of its 
weight in regard to most parts of the world where the 
supply is plentiful. Again, the curious properties of salt, 
its preserving capacity, its power of penetrating other 
substances, etc., would ^ naturally impress the primitive mind , 
and the view just described would doubtless try to account 
for the belief in its magical powers by pointing out that 
such minds work on a simpler plane of thought than do 
ours. To this argument, however, comparative psychology 
could object that, although this type of thought — just as 
that of children — certainly often differs from what we term 
rational thinking, careful investigation always shews that it 

1 Lawrence: op. cit, p. 187. 


is very far from being so bizarre and unintelligible as it 
may at first sight appear; the formation of illogical 
connections is not meaningless, but has a perfectly definite 
and comprehensible reason for it. The general criticism, 
therefore, that must be passed on this explanation is that 
while it adduces unquestionably important considerations 
these are only partly capable of accounting for the facts, 
and are inadequate as a complete explanation of them. 
Other factors must have been operative in addition to those 
just mentioned. 

The second explanation would Supplement the first by 
regarding the excessive significance attaching to the idea 
of salt as an example of what Wernicke called an Über- 
wertige Idee, that is to say, an idea overcharged with 
psychical significance. Only some of this inherently belongs 
to the idea itself, the rest being of adventitious origin. 
Such processes are, of course, very familiär in daily life: 
a banknote, for instance, is valued not for the intrinsic 
worth of the paper but for the worth that extrinsic 
circumstances give it. Psycho-analytic investigation has 
shewn on the one hand that such transference of affect 
from one idea to another allied one is much commoner 
even than was previously realised, and on the other hand 
that very often the subject is quite unaware of the 
occurrence. Thus a person may experience an intense 
affect — fear, horror, etc. — in regard to a given idea or 
object purely through the idea having formed strong 
associative connections with another idea which is justifiably 
invested with this affect; the intrinsic attributes of the idea 
do not account for the strong affect attached to it, this 
being in the main derived from a different source. The 
most striking manifestations of this process are seen in the 
psychoneuroses; the patient has a terror of a certain object 
which is not customarily regarded with terror, the reason 


being that the idea of the object is unconsciously connected 
in his mind with that of another object in regard to which 
the terror is quite comprehensible. In such cases the 
secondary idea may be said to represent or symbolise the 
primary one. 1 The more bizarre and apparently unintelligible 
is the phobia or other symptom, the more strained is as a 
rule the connection between it and the original idea, and 
the stronger is the emotion investing the latter. Apart from 
the neuroses instances of exceedingly strained connections 
are less common. What happens as a rule is that the affect 
belonging to the two ideas, the symbolised and the 
symbolising one, is very similar, so that the affect transferred 
from the one to the other accounts for only part of the 
affect accompanying the secondary idea. In this case the 
intrinsic qualities of the idea account for some of the 
affect, but not for all; the affect is appropriate in quality, 
but disproportionate in quantity. Unless the cause of this 
exaggeration is appreciated there is an unavoiclable tendency 
to overlook the fact itself on rationalistic grounds; then 
the intrinsic qualities of the secondary idea are erroneously 
regarded as constituting an adequate explanation of the 
affect in question. 

The main difference, therefore, between the two 
explanations is this: the first assumes that the affect, or 
psychical significance, attaching to the idea of salt was 
once not disproportionate to its real value, whereas the 
second, regarding the affect as disproportionate, maintains 
that some of it must be derived from an extraneous source. 

In seeking for this source we have two distinct clues 
to guide us. In the first place, the universality of the 
beliefs and customs under discussion, and the remarkably 

1 On the precise distinction between symbolism and other forms 
of indirect mental representation see Ch.VIl of my Papers on Psycho- 
Analysis, 1918, 'The Theory of Symbolism'. 


high and even mystical significance that has been attached 
to the idea of salt, indicate that any further idea from 
whtch this may have been derived must be both a general 
one, common to all mankind, and one of fundamental 
psychical importance. In the second place, the association 
between the idea of salt and any further one must have 
been formed through the resemblances, real or fancied, of 
the corresponding qualities of the two ideas. It becomes 
necessary, therefore, to consider with closer attention the 
populär conception of these qualities that was described 

This conception may be summarised as follows. Salt 
is a pure, white, immaculate and incorruptible substance, 
apparently irreducible into any further constituent elements, 
and indispensable to living beings. It has correspondingly 
been regarded as the essence of things in general, the 
quintessence of life, and the very soul of the body. It has 
been invested with the highest general significance — far more 
than that of any other article of diet — was the equivalent 
of money and other forms of wealth, and its presence was 
indispensable for the undertaking of any enterprise, parti- 
cularly any new one. In religion it was one of the most 
sacred objects, and to it were ascribed all manner ot 
magical powers. The pungent, stimulating flavour of salt, 
which has found much metaphorical application in reference 
to pointed, telling wit or discourse, doubtless contributed 
to the conception of it as an essential dement; to be without 
salt is to be insipid, to have something essential lacking. 
The durability of salt, and its immunity against decay, made 
it an emblem of immortality. It was believed to have an 
important influence in favouring fertility and fecundity, and 
in preventing barrenness, this idea is connected with other 
attributes than the one just mentioned, probably indeed 
with them all. The pprmanence of salt helped to create 


the idea that for one person to partake of the salt ot 
another formed a bond of lasting friendship and loyalty 
between the two, and the substance played an important 
part in the rites of hospitality. A similar application of it 
was for confirming oaths, ratifying compacts, and sealing 
solemn covenants. This conception of a bond was also 
related to the capacity salt has for combining intimately 
with a second substance and imparting to this its % peculiar 
properties, including the power to preserve against decay; 
for one important substance — namely, water— it had in 
fact a natural and curious affinity. 

If we now try to discover what other idea these ideas 
could arise in reference to, besides that of salt, the task 
is surely not difficult. If the word salt had not been men- 
tioned in the preceding description anyone accustomed to 
hidden symbolism, and many without this experience, would 
regard it as a circumlocutory and rather grandiloquent 
account of a still more familiär idea — that of human semen. 
In any case a substance possessing the attributes just 
mentioned would lend itself with singular facility to such 
an association. Indeed, the mere fact that salt has been 
regarded as the emblem of immortality and wisdom is in 
itself suggestive to anyone who is alive to such possibilities, 
for the other well-known emblem of these two concepts is 
the snake, which is in mythology and elsewhere the phallic 
symbol par excellence. The surmise that the idea of salt 
has derived much of its significance from its being uncon- 
sciously associated with that of semen fulfils at least one 
postulate of all symbolic thinking — namely, that the idea 
from which the excessive significance is derived is more 
important psychically than the idea to which this is trans- 
ferred; the radiatioa of the affect, like that of electricity, 
is always from the site of more intense concentration to 
that of less. 


At the present stage oi our investigation it is piain 
that the inference just drawn cannot be regarded as being 
much more than a surmise, or at the most a working 
hypothesis, one which will appear more or less plausible 
according to the experience of unconscious symbolism by 
which it is viewed. It must next be tested by the ordinary rules 
of science — namely, by its capacity to predict and by its 
power of satisfactorily reducing to simple terms a series 
of disparate phenomena. 

If the hypothesis is correct then one could foretell 
that customs and beliefs would be found shewing a direct 
relation between the idea of salt on the one hand and 
such ideas as those of marriage, sexual intercourse, and 
potency on the other, as well as a larger number shewing 
a plainly symbolical relation between the two sets of ideas; 
further, that the ideas concerning salt and water mirror 
similar, more primitive ones concerning semen and urine, 
and that the partaking of salt would be connected with 
ideas relating to sexual intercourse and impregnation. It 
will presently be seen that anthropological and folk-loristic 
material provides ample confirmation of these expectations. 

The supposed action of salt in favouring fecundity 
and in preventing barrenness has been mentioned above. 
It was a classical belief that mice became impregnated 
through eating salt; 1 any objection to our hypothesis, 
therefore, that the connection between the ideas of salt 
and semen is too remote for them ever to have been 
brought together, except artificially, at once falls to the 
ground, for here we have a direct identification of the 
two substances. In the Pyrenees the wedding couple before 
setting out for church put salt into their left pocket to 
guard against the man's being impotent. In Limousin, 

Pliny: Nat. Hist. x. 85. 


Poitou, and Haut-Vienne the bridegroom alone does this, 
in Altmark the bride alone. In Pamproux salt is put into 
the clothes of the wedding couple with the same motive. 1 
In Germany salt is strewn in the bride's shoe. 2 In Scot- 
land on the night before the wedding salt is strewn on 
the floor of the new home with the object of protecting 
the young couple against the evil eye; 3 I have elsewhere 4 
shewn that the idea of maleficium, with which that of the 
evil eye is practically identical, mainly arises from the per- 
vading dread of impotence, and Seligmann 5 actually mentions 
the use of salt to counteract the 'ligature', i. e. the spell 
cast over the sexual functions by evil influences. 

Salt has often, especially in former times, been con- 
sidered to have an exciting influence on the nervous 
system, and it was thus thought to possess the attribute 
of arousing passion and desire. t5 Schieiden 7 writes: 'The 
Romans termed a man in love "salax", and this view still 
survives with us when we jokingly say that the cook who 
has put too much salt into the soup must be in love.' In 
Belgium the custom of visiting one's sweetheart in the 
nights after festivals is called 'turning one's love into salt'. 8 
Shakespeare evidently uses it in the same sense in the 
passage ( Though we are justices . . . we have some salt of 
our youth in us\ 9 In some stories collected among African 

1 The preceding examples are all taken from Seligmann: op. cit, 
Band II, S. 35, 36, or from Schieiden: op. cit, S. 71, 79. 

2 Schell: 'Das Salz im Volksglauben', Zeitschrift des Vereines füt 
Volkskunde, Jahrg. XV, S. 137. 

3 Seligmann: op. cit., S. 35. 

4 Ernest Jones: Der Alptraum in seiner Beziehung zu gewissen 
Formen des mittelalterlichen Aberglaubens, 1912, S. 107, 108. 

5 Seligmann: op. cit., Band I, S. 291. 

6 Schieiden: op. cit., S. 92. 

7 Schieiden: op. cit, S. 93. 

8 Von Reinsberg-Düringsfeld : op. cit., S. 472. 

9 The Merry Wives of Windsor: Act II, Sc. 3. 


natives by Frobenius 1 salt is referred to as a direct equi- 
valent of semen. Paracelsus, in his 'De Origine Morborum 
Invisibilium', 2 teaches that Incubi and Succubi emanate from 
the sperma found in the imagination of those who commit 
the unnatural sin of Onan, but that this is no true sperma, 
only corrupted salt. 

The following are two metaphorical applications of the 
same idea. Salt is used to keep the fire always burning, 3 and 
there are examples, which need not be quoted, of the combi- 
nation of salt and fire being used for every purpose in regard 
to which salt alone has superstitiously been used. At the 
Osiris festivals in Egypt all those taking part had to light 
lamps the oil of which had had salt mixed with it. 4 The 
idea of fire, however, in poetry as well as in mythology, 5 
is constantly used to represent the ideas of the fire 
of life and the fire of love. Again, lameness is often 
brought into symbolic association with impotence (incapa- 
city, inability), and in Sicily salt is used specifically to 
prevent lameness. 

The initiatory ceremonies universally performed by 
rüder peoples at the age of puberty commonly include a 
sacrificial or propitiatory act; circumcision is a replacement 
of such ceremonies, having been put back to the age of 
infancy just as baptism has been by most Christian Churches. 
In Egypt salt is strewn when circumcision is performed. 7 
In various initiations, both earnest and jocular, at univer- 
sities and schools salt played a central part, and the phrase 

1 Frobenius: Schwarze Seelen (Privately printed), 191 3, S. 433. 
Dr. Otto Rank kindly inforrns me of this. 

2 Hartmann's Life of Paracelsus: 1667, p. 90. 

H Mühlhauser : Urreligion des deutschen Volkes, 1860, S. 133. 

4 Schieiden: op. cit, S. 76. 

5 Cp. Abraham: Traum und Mythus, 1909, S. 31, etc. 

6 Pitre: loc. cit. 

7 Seligmann: op. cit, Band II, S. 37. 


'to salt a freshman' is still in vogue. 1 Of late years it 
has beert replaced % in this respect by the more con- 
venient alcöhol, another unconscious symbol for semen, 2 
but the feeling-attitude remains the same — namely, that 
the young man needs the administration of an essential 
substance before he can be regarded as having attained 
füll virility. 

It is knovvn that there exists an intimate connection 
betvveen extreme abstinence attitudes of all kinds and 
excessive sexual Depression'; over-great prudishness is apt 
to be accompanied by a desire to abolish all alcohol from 
the universe, as we see at the present day in America. 
In the same way salt has been brought into manifold 
relation with the idea of sexual abstinence. The workers 
in the salt-pans near Siphoum, in Laos, must abstain from 
all sexual relations at the place where they are at work, 
the motive being a purely superstittous one. 3 The celibate 
Egyptian priests had at certain times to abstain wholly 
from the use of salt, on the ground of its being a material 
that excited sensual desires too much. 4 Abstinence both 
from sexual relations and from the partaking of salt is 
enjoined for several days on men of the Dyak tribes after 
returning from an expedition in which they have taken 
human heads, 5 and for three weeks on a Pirna Indian who 
has killed an Apache; 6 in the latter case the man's wife 

1 Cp. Brand: op. cit, Vol. I, pp. 433-9. 

2 Abraham: 'Die psychologischen Beziehungen zwischen Sexualität 
und Alkoholismus', Zeitschrift für Sexualwissenschaft, 1908, S. 449. 

3 Aymonier: Notes sur le Laos, 1885, p. 141. 

4 Schieiden: op. cit, S. 93. 

5 Tromp: 'Uit de Salasial van Koetei', Bijdragen tot de Taal- 
Land- en Volkenkunde van Nederlandsch-Indie, 1888, Vol. XXXVII, p. 74. 

6 Bancroft: Native Races of the Pacific States, 1875, Vol. I, p. 553; 
Grossman, in Ninth Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology, 1892, 
P. 475. 


also has to abstain from salt during the same period. 1 The 
füll account of these customs clearly shews that they 
constitute rites of purification and expiation. Abstinence 
both from sexual relations and from salt is also frequently 
prescribed during important undertakings or on weighty 
occasions: thus on Lake Victoria Nyanza while fishing, 2 
and in the island of Nias while traps are being laid for 
wild animals. 3 In Uganda any man who has either committed 
adultery or eaten salt is not allowed to partake of the 
sacred fish-offering. 4 In Mexico the Huichol Indians undergo 
the same double abstinence while the sacred cactus-plant, 
the gourd of the God of Fire, is being gathered. 5 Similar 
double observances obtain in other countries in connection 
with the promotion of fertility; in fact the last-named custom 
is related to this, for the main benefits that the sacred 
cactus is supposed to bestow are plentiful rain-supply, good 
crops, and the like. The Indians of Peru abstain for as 
long as six months both from sexual intercourse and from 
eating salt on the occasion of the birth of twins; one of 
the twins was believed to be the son of the lightning, the 
lord and creator of rain. 6 Other examples of the same double 
abstinence are : in Peru preceding the Acatay mita festival, 
the object of which is to ripen the fruit, and which is 
followed by a sexual orgy; 7 in Nicaragua from the time 

1 Russell: 'The Pirna Indians ', Twenty-Sixth Annual Report of the 
Bureau of American Ethnology, 1908, p. 204. 

2 Frazer: The Golden Bough, Third Edition, Part II, Taboo, 
191 1, p. 194. 

3 Thomas: 'De jacht op het eiland Nias', Tijdschrift voor Indische 
2 aal- Land' en Volkenkunde, 1880, Vol. XXVI. 

4 Roscoe: 'Further Notes on the Manners and Customs ot the 
Baganda', Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 1902, Vol. 
XXXII, p. 56. 

5 Lumholtz: Unknown Mexico, 1903, Vol. II, p. 126. 

G Frazer: op. cit, Part I, The Magic Art, 191 1, Vol. I, p. 266. 
7 Frazer; op. cit., Vol. II, p. 98. 


that the maize is sown until it is reaped. 1 In Behar in 
India the Nagin women, sacred prostitutes known as 'wives 
of the Snake-God', periodically go about begging and during 
this time they may not touch salt; half of their proceeds 
go to the priests and half to buying salt and sweetmeats 
for the villagers. 2 

Attention may be called to tvvo features of the preceding 
collection of customs. First that they occur in all parts of 
the globe, instances having been cited from Europe, Africa, 
Asia, and America, North, South, and Central. Secondly, 
that to a great extent they duplicate the customs previously 
described in connection with salt alone, thus in relation to 
religion, to the weather, to important undertakings, and to 
the production of fertility. Where in one country the presence 
of salt is indispensable, in another one abstinence from 
salt — and at the same time from sexual intercourse — is 
equally essential. Both cases agree in regarding salt as an 
important agent in these respects; whether this is for good 
or for evil is of secondary interest, the main point being 
its significance. If, as is here suggested, the idea of salt is 
generally connected in the unconscious mind with that of 
semen, it is throughout intelligible that abstinence from 
sexual relations should tend to be accompanied by abstinence 
from salt as well (radiation of the affect); it is in perfect 
accord with all we know of primitive, symbolic thinking. 
The unconscious logic of the argument seems to be that 
abstinence from sexuality is incomplete unless all forms of 
semen, even symbolic forms, are abstained from. 

This bipolar attitude of regarding salt as either exceed- 
ingly beneficial or exceedingly harmful reminds one of 
two current controversies — namely, whether alcohol and sexual 

1 Frazer: op. cit, p. 105. 

2 Crooke: Populär Religion and Folk-Lore of Northern India, 
1896, Vol. H, p. 138. 


intercourse respectively are beneficial or harmful to health. 
Indeed, as with these, there have been at various times 
Propagandist movements started in which salt has been denoun- 
ced as the cause of numerous bodily evils. 1 About 1830 there 
was published a volume by a Dr. Arthur Howard entitled: 
'Salt, the forbidden fruit or food; and the chief cause 
of diseases of the body and mind of man and of animals, 
as taught by the ancient Egyptian priests and wise men 
and by Scripture, in accordance with the author's experience 
of many years\ It was described by the Lancet as 'worthy 
of immortality'. As may be imagined from the title, the 
author treats of salt as a most obnoxious substance, abstin- 
ence from which is essential to the maintenance of health. 
It is possible even that unconscious associations of the 
kind under consideration may not have been altogether 
without influence in relation to more recent medical views. 
It had long been noticed that urine contained solid 
constituents which were either evident as such or could be 
recovered from their soluble State by means of evaporation; 
these were regarded on the one hand as comprising the 
essence of the fluid, being thus identified with semen, and 
on the other as salts, which indeed they mostly are. 2 The 
sufferings due to the excessive accumulation of these salts, 
in the form of calculi, attracted a great deal of attention 
and play a very important part in early surgical writings. 
When the chemical constituents of urine came to be 
carefully studied by exact methods there arose a tendency, 
which reached its acme in the late eighties, to attribute a 
considerable number of disorders to the presence in the 
system of an excessive amount of these constituents. Thus, 

1 Lawrence: op. cit., pp. 189-92. 

2 The unconscious association between semen and urine on the 
one hand and salt and water on the other will be dealt with at length 
later in this essay. 


to mention only a few examples, gout was thought to be 
simply a question of poisoning by uric acid, uraemia to be 
poisoning with urea, diabetic coma (exhaustion following 
on the continued loss of a vital substance) poisoning by 
acetone (an occasional urinary constituent), rheumatism poison- 
ing by lactic acid (milk, a sexual secretion, is almost constantly 
identified with semen in the unconscious), and so on. It 
is interesting that the two diseases in regard to which this 
idea was most firmly fixed — namely, gout and rheumatism 
— are Joint diseases, and hence lend themselves to the 
series of unconscious associations Mameness— incapacity — 
impotence'. Of late years the tendency has taken at the 
same time simpler and more complex directions. On the 
one hand there is a return to salt itself, and a 'salt-free 
diet' is vaunted as the sovereign agent for the prevention 
of arterial disease and old age (impotency), for the eure 
of epilepsy, and so on. It will also be remembered how, 
when Brown-Sequard's attempt to recapture youthful vig- 
our by means of the injeetion of canine semen shocked 
the medical profession in London, efforts were made to 
Substitute the more respectable, because unconscious, symbol 
of this — common salt. On the other hand there is a 
restless search for more complex organic poisons, usually 
in the intestinal contents, which are now being as extensively 
exploited as the urine was forty years ago. The belief in 
the prime importance of organic poisons is even generally 
extended to psychosexual maladies, such as hysteria, 
'neurasthenia', and dementia praecox. It may be questioned 
whether the important advance in knowledge represented 
by the toxic theory of disease would not have met with 
more resistance than it did had it not appealed to a 
fundamental complex in the human mind, in which, 
among others, the ideas of poison and semen are closely 


A few derivative symbolisms concerning salt may next 
be considered, which receive an added significance in the 
light of the hypothesis put forward above. The power of 
salt is enhanced when it is placed on an object resembling 
the male organ. Cattle are thus protected by making them 
step over a bar ol iron, or a hatchet, which has been 
sprinkled with salt; 1 the Esthonians cut a cross 2 under 
the door through which the cattle have to pass, and fill 
the furrows of it with salt to prevent evil spirits from 
harming them. 3 

In Bohemia when a girl goes out for a walk her 
mother sprinkles salt on the ground so that she may not 
i lose her way'; 4 this over-solicitous precaution becomes more 
intelligible when we read Wuttke's 5 explanation that the 
object of it is to prevent the girl from falling in love. A 
belief at first sight quite foolish and meaningless is that a 
boy can be cured of home-sickness by placing salt in the 
hem of his trousers (!) and making him look up the 
chimney. 6 We now know, however, that excessive home- 
sickness is due to over-attachment, rooted in unconscious 
incestuous wishes, to some member of the family, usually 
the mother, which has the effect of 'fixing' his powers 
of love and rendering it incapable of being transferred in 
the normal way to a stranger. To look up the chimney 
symbolises the daring to face another dark, inaccessible 
and dangerous passage (the very word c chimney' is derived 
from the Greek K&|iivoq = oven, a common unconscious 

1 Wuttke: op. cit, S. 440. 

2 The phallic significance of the cross symbolism has been pointed 
out by many investigators. See, for instance, Inman: Ancient Pagan 
,and Modern Christian Symbolism, 1874. 

3 Frazer: op. cit, p. 331. 

4 Lawrence: op. cit, p. 182. 

5 Wuttke: op. cit, S. 367. 

6 Lawrence: op. cit, p. 181. 


equivalent for the mother's lap or womb). The belief, 
therefore, which means that if someone can succeed in 
'making a man of him' he will be freed from his home- 
sickness, is not so unintelligible as it appears, and is merely 
the clothing in symbolic language of a fundamental fact in 
human nature. One may learn from it how invaluable a 
knowledge of unconscious symbolism is for the under- 
standing of superstition, and how impossible it is to 
comprehend it without this knowledge. 

The Salt-cellar, the receptacle of the salt, has been held 
in as much superstitious reverence as its contents. 1 The 
symbolism of it is usually a feminine one, 2 as indeed is 
indicated by the Spanish compliment of calling a sweetheart 
1 salt-cellar of my love\ 3 Salt-cellars, often of great mag- 
nificence, were, and still are, favourite wedding-presents. 
In Rome they constituted a special heirloom, the paternum 
salinum, which was handed down from generation to 
generation with especial care. In general it is just as 
evident that an excessive amount of affect, of extraneous 
origin, has been invested in the idea of a salt-cellar as it 
is in salt itself. In classical times the salt-cellar partook 
of the nature of a holy vessel, associated with the temple 
in general, and more particularly with the altar. 4 To those 
who are familiär with the female symbolism of the altar 5 
this will be quite comprehensible. The etymology of the 
word 'salt-cellar' is of considerable interest in the 
present connection. The second part 'cellar' is derived 
from the French i sediere' (salt-cellar), so that the whole 

1 Schieiden: op. cit, S. 74; Lawrence: op. cit., pp. 196-205. 

2 Though the late Dr. Putnam related to me the case of a man 
in whose dreams a salt-cellar appeared as a symbol of the scrotum. 

3 Andrea: Globus, 1867, Band XI, S. 140. % 

4 Schieiden: op. cit, S. 74. 

5 G. W. Cox: The Mythology of the Aryan Nations, 1870, Vol. II, 
pp. 11 3-21; Inman; op. cit, p. 74. 



Russia. 1 In other places the act gives one possession or 
power over the recipient, and with salt one can acqulre 
either men or knowledge; 2 this idea is probably allied to 
those of loyal ty and of the magical properties of salt (see 
above). Light is thus thrown on the quaint saying: c to 
catch a bird you must put salt on his tail \ This is com- 
monly accounted for with the obvious remark that to catch 
a bird one must get near enough to it to be able to 
touch it, but this does not explain why it should be just 
salt that has to be applied, nor why it should be just to 
the tail. Realisation of the belief in the magical power of 
salt makes the saying rather more intelligible, but the 
explanation thus afforded is still only a general one; 
constructions of the phantasy, including superstitious beliefs 
and sayings, are determined not only generally, but preci- 
sely and in their finest details. Additional help is furnished 
by an old legend narrated by Lawrence, 3 in which a young 
man playfully threw some salt on to the back of a woman 
who was sitting next to him at table; she happened to 
be a witch, and was so weighted down by the salt that 
she was unable to move until it was brushed away. We 
have here, therefore, again the idea of salt brought into 
relation with that of weight which prevents movement. 
Now witches were conceived to be incorporeal beings, and 
in fact one of the chief ways of finding out whether a 
given woman was a witch was by weighing her; 4 the 
difference in weight made by a pinch of salt was therefore 
quite considerable, or could metaphorically be imagined to 
be so. This attribute of witches was closely related to 
their power of flying by night, and therefore with bird 

1 Schieiden: op. cit, S. 71. 

2 Oxford Dictionary: loc. cit. 

3 Lawrence: op. cit, p. 179. 

4 Bekker: Die Bezauberte Welt, 1692, Theil I, S. 209. 



mythology altogether. The bird has always been a common 
phallic symbol 1 — sometimes quite consciously so, as with 
the winged phallus charms of the Roman ladies — and the 
tail is a still more familiär one in common speech; further 
the act of flying from the ground is frequently associated 
in the unconscious with the phenomenon of erection. 2 The 
significance of salt (=semen) in this connection is obvious; 
favouring and hindering are treated as synonymous terms 
here as elsewhere in superstition, just as in the unconscious 
mind, the main point being the significance. 

Finally may be mentioned the belief that to see salt 
in a dream indicates illness. 3 When one recalls the fre- 
quency with which the ideas of nocturnal emission and of 
illness or loss of strength are associated, it is not difficult 
to divine the source of this particular belief. 


In the preceding section of this essay we dealt chiefly 
with the adttlt roots of salt symbolism and superstitions, 
and we have now to turn our attention to the deeper 
infantile roots. The reason why the word ' deeper ' is used 
here will presently become evident; it has to do with the 
ontogenetic, as well as phylogenetic, antiquity of symbolism 
in gener al. 

Before passing to the next stage of the investigation, 
therefore, it will be necessary briefly to refer to some 
aspects of infantile mental life that without being realised 
play an important part in adult life — namely, certain views 
developed by young children concerning the begetting of 

1 Abraham: Traum und Mythus, 1909, S. 30, 63, etc. 

2 Federn: Cited by Freud, Die Traumdeutung, Dritte Aufl., 191 1, 
S. 204. 

8 Schieiden: op. cit, S. 80. 


children. 1 These are forgotten long before puberty, so 
that the adult is quite unaware of their existence and is 
extremely surprised to hear of their great frequency in 
childhood life. They survive nevertheless in the uncons- 
cious mind, and exert a considerable influence on later 
interests and views. 

Early realising, in spite of the untruths told him by 
the parents, that a baby is born of the mother and grows 
inside her, the child sets to work to solve the problem as 
best he can, the füll answer being concealed from him. 
Knowing nothing of other organs he conceives of the 
'inside', particularly the abdomen, as simply a receptacle 
for food, a view amply confirmed by his experience of 
indigestion and other sensations. The baby, therefore, must 
have been formed out of food, an inference that is largely 
correct. Further, there being no other mode of exit 
possible — at least so far as he is aware— the baby must 
have then reached the exterior in the same way as digested 
food (cloaca theory), as it actually does in all animals 
except mammalia. There is thus established in the child's 
mind a close connection between the ideas of food, faeces, 
and babies, one that explains among many other things 
many an hysterical symptom in later life. 

The child next comes to the notion that, since food 
alone does not in his personal experience have this result, 
a mixing of two substances must be necessary. On the 
basis of his excremental interests he observes that there 
are three possible materials available, for it is only excep- 
tionally that he thinks the fertilising material is of non- 
human origin. The phantasy may combine these three 
materials — solid, liquid, and gaseous — in different ways, the 
commonest of which, in my experience and in that of 

1 See Freud: Sammlung kleiner Schriften zur Neurosenlehre, Zweite 
Folge, 1911, S. 159-64, 'Über infantile Sexualtheorien'. 


other observers, are in order: liquid — solid, liquid — liquid, 
solid — solid, and gaseous — solid. A knowledge of these 
facts is indispensable for the füll understanding of salt 
symbolism. As the objection may be raised that they are 
artefacts of the psycho-analytic method of investigation, it 
will be well to refer to a little of the mass of purely 
anthropological evidence that proves the universal occurrence 
of similar beliefs in what corresponds with the childhood 
of the race. 1 

The belief that fertilisation, and even delivery, can 
take place through some other orifice than the vagina has 
been held in the most diverse countries of the world and 
is still quite prevalent. Any orifice or indentation may be 
implicated, the nostril, eye, ear, navel, and so on. An 
interesting historical example was the mediaeval belief 
that the Virgin Mary conceived through the ear, one 
widely held in the Roman Catholic Church. 2 The mouth, 
however, was the orifice most frequently thought of in 
this connection, as is apparent from the very numerous 
legends and beliefs in which eating or drinking bring about 
pregnancy. The peasantry in England still believe that 
peahens are impregnated in this way a and similar views 
are entertained in other countries in respect of different 
animals; we noted above that according to which female 
mice are impregnated by eating salt. 

The belief that women can conceive as the result ot 
eating various articles of diet has existed in most parts 

1 Since this essay was written a highly interesting paper of Otto 
Rank's has appeared (' Völkerpsychologische Parallelen zu den infantilen 
Sexualtheorien ', Zentralblatt für Psychoanalyse, Jahrg. II, Heft 8) in 
which a large quantity of additional data is given that both connrms 
and amplifies the conclusions here enunciated. 

2 See Ch. VIII of these Essays, which is devoted to an examin- 
ation of this belief. 

3 Hartland: Primitive Paternity, 1909, Vol. I, p. 151. 


of the world; 1 usually the particular food is one to which 
some sexual symbolism is attached, such as rice, fish, 
cocoanuts, and so on. In the more civilised countries this 
has been reduced to the belief that partaking of such 
substances will eure barrenness in women or promote their 
feeundity; Hartland 2 relates a huge number of practices 
of this kind carried out, mostly at the present day, for the 
purpose of securing coneeption. 

A digression must here be made on a matter of 
some importance to the present theme — namely, the asso- 
ciation between food as taken into the body and food as 
it is given out, two ideas which are by no means so 
remote from each other in the primitive mind, including 
that of the child, as they usually are in that of the civi- 
lised adult. In the first place many savage tribes have 
the custom of devouring ordure of all kinds, including 
their own, and indeed seem to partake of it with special 
relish; 3 a contemptuous reference to it may be found in 
2 Kings xviii. 27. In more civilised countries this has 
long been replaced by sausages 4 (a word, by the way, of 
the same etymological derivation as salt), and other produets 
of abdominal Organs. 5 The ordure of sacred men has in 
many countries a high religious significance, being used to 

1 Hartland: op. cit, pp. 4-16. Numerous examples. 

2 Hartland: op. cit, pp. 32-41, 47, 48, 54~72. 

3 Bourke: Scatalogic Rites of All Nations, 1891, pp. 33-7. 

4 In England in the present generation the belief was acted on 
that a stolen sausage had the power ol curing barrenness (Hartland: 
op. cit, p. 56). 

5 The wife of the Elector of Hanover, in a letter to her niece, 
the sister-in-law of Louis XIV, writes as follows*. 

Hanovre, 31 Octobre, 1694. 
Si la viande fait la merde, il est vrai de dire que la merde fait 
la viande. Est-ce que dans les tables les plus delicates, la merde n'y 
est pas servie en ragoüts? Les boudins, les andouilles, les saucisses, 
ne sont-ce pas de ragoüts dans des sacs ä merde? 


anoint kings, to guard against evil demons, and so on. 
That it is not very rare for insane patients to eat their 
own excrement is of course well-known; 2 in such cases 
the long-buried infantile association may come to open 
expression in the patient's remark, pointing to the excre- 
ment, that he has just produced a baby. Cases of sterco- 
phagy are occasionally met with apart from any psychosis, 
as I know from personal experience of several instances. 
An association is often formed between the ideas of excre- 
ment and corpses, probably through the common notion 
of decomposition of something that was once a living 
human body, or part of one. Both ideas are connected 
with that of fecundity. Hartland 3 refers to 'numerous 
stories wherein portions of dead bodies, given to maidens 
and other women, render them pregnant \ One of the 
most widely-spread practices in India and elsewhere for 
remedying sterility is to perform various symbolic acts in 
relation to dead bodies: thus, to creep under the coffin, 
to wash in the blood of decapitated criminals, to bathe 
over a dead body or underneath a person who has been 
hanged, and so on. 4 The Hungarians hold that a dead 
man's bone shaved into drink and given to a woman will 
promote conception, or if given to a man will enhance his 
potency. 5 It is clear that other factors also enter into 
these last-mentioned beliefs, notably forms of ancestor- 
worship, but we are concerned here only with the one 
element of the association between putrefaction and fecun- 
dity, one which has of course an extensive real justification 

1 ßourke: op. cit., pp. 42-53. 

2 According to Obersteiner [Psychiatrisches Centralblatt, 1871, 
Band III, S. 95) this is true of one per cent of such patients, more 
often with men. 

3 Hartland r op. cit, p. 77. 

4 Hartland: op. cit., pp. 74-6. 

5 Von Wüslocki: Aus dem Volksleben der Magyaren, 1893, S. 77. 


in agriculture (manure and fertility). The bone, being a 
rigid hollow tube containing a vital marrow, 1 is a very 
f requent phallic symbol in anthropological data and in the 
unconscious mind generally: the following Egyptian myth 
also illustrates its power of impregnation. 2 A bone thrown 
on a dung-heap ( ! ) grew up into so fine a tree (another 
familiär symbol) that no one had ever seen its like. The 
daughter of the man who had thrown the bone was desir- 
ous of seeing this wonderful tree; when she witnessed 
its beauty she was so entranced that she embraced it and 
kissing it took a leaf into her mouth. As she chewed it 
she found the taste sweet and agreeable and swallowed the 
leaf; at the same instant she conceived by the will of God. 

Mainly derived from the same source are the beliefs 
and customs relating to the endless magical properties 
attaching to dead bodies, and notably to their most putre- 
factive elements (saliva, excretions, etc.). 3 It would be out 
of place to follow this subject further here, but mention may 
be made of a West German belief to the effect that unless 
the person who has clothed the dead body rubs his hands 
with salt his limbs will go to sleep. 4 This is evidently akin to 
sympathetic magic, the meaning being that close contact 
with the corpse may transfer his State of deadness to the 
person ; the deeper meaning is that salt ( = semen) will protect 
the member(s) from the risk of death, i.e. impotency. 

A more constant unconscious association is that be- 
tween the ideas of gold and faeces, 5 one of far-reaching 

1 Cp. the curse: 'May his bones lose their sap*. 

2 Oestrup: Contes de Damas, 1897, P- 2 6. 

3 Hartland: The Legend of Perseus, 1895, Vol. II, pp, 162-74, 
313-32, etc. 

Wuttke: op. cit, S. 463. 
5 Freud: op. cit., S. 136, 137; Ferenczi: Contributions to Psycho- 
Analysis, 1916, Ch. XIII, 'The Ontogenesis of the Interest in Money'; 
Ernst Jones: Papers on Psycho-Analysis, 1918, pp. 676-8. 


significance in mythology as well as in the reactions of 
every-day life. Gold as fertilising principle usually in con- 
junction with a second sexual symbol is a favourite theme 
in mythology; perhaps the best known instance is that of 
Danae being impregnated by a shower of golden rain. 
Apples, fish, and other objects, made of or resembling 
gold, are also familiär instances of the same type of story. 
Tliis association explains the extensive connection noted 
earlier between salt and money or wealth (both being 
symbols of fertilising excrement), of w T hich a few other 
examples may be given. In Pomerania at the close of a 
wedding breakfast a servant carries round a plate con- 
taining salt, upon which the guests put money ; * the com- 
bination of the two substances plainly symbolises fertility. 
Seligmann 2 refers to a German custom of carrying salt 
and money together in the pocket as a protection against 
impotence, so that here we have our surmise directly 
confirmed as to the meaning of the combination. A more 
complex variant is found in the Chemnitz saying: *if one 
washes one's money in clear water and puts it with salt 
and bread, the dragon and evil people cannot get it'. 3 
Pregnancy has been brought about just as frequently 
by drinking as it has by eating : all manner of fluids have 
been efficacious in this respect, the sacred soma-juice milk, 
the sap of grass, leaves and plants, the juice of roots, 
fruit and flowers, and so on. 4 The idea of a liquid Stimulus 
to conception thus Stands in contrast with that of a solid 
one. The practice of drinking various fluids for the purpose 
of aiding conception is even more widely spread, and exists 
throughout Europe at the present day. In every country 

1 Schieiden: op. cit, S. 71. 

2 Seligmann: op. cit., S. 38. 

3 Grimm: op. cit, Nachtrag, S. 434, 

4 Hartland : Primitive Paternity, 1909, Vol. I. Numerous instances» 


women wishing to have children drink water from various 
holy Springs or wells, the most potent of which is perhaps 
that at Lourdes. 1 Apart from this numerous allied practices 
exist, of which the following selection may be given. 2 In 
Thuringia and Transylvania women who wished to be healed 
of unfruitfulness drank consecrated (salt) water from the 
baptismal fönt; in Rügen such water was efiicacious if 
poured before the door of a childless couple. In Hungary 
a barren woman drinks from a spring that she has never 
before seen. A Malagasy woman who has not been blessed 
with issue is made to go on swallowing water until her 
stomach is so füll that it will not hold another drop. Masur 
women in West Prussia make use of the water that drips 
from a stallion's mouth after he has drunk. 

As might be expected, more personal fluids are exten- 
sively used for the same purpose, this being the primary 
sense of the proceeding. In Bombay a woman cuts off the 
end of the robe of another woman who has borne children, 
steeps it, and drinks the infusion. Other women in India 
drink the water squeezed from the loin-cloth of a sanyäsi, 
or devotee. Saliva has been very extensively employed in 
this connection, it being almost universally treated as a 
seminal equivalent (hence the expression c he is the very 
spit of his father'). Saliva in fact forms throughout in folk- 
lore and superstition a regulär duplicate of salt, bearing 
the same relation to hospitality, friendship, compacts, 
baptism, magical powers and charms, religious significance, 
and the rest; 3 the theme cannot be further pursued here 
and obviously needs separate exposition. Other fluids that 
may be mentioned are: the milk of another woman, blood 
from the navel of a new-born child, water in which the 

1 Hartland: op. cit, pp. 64-7. 

2 Hartland: op. cit, pp. 67-71. 

3 Hartland: Perseus, op. cit, pp. 258-75. 


navel has been soaked, the lochial discharge of a woman 
at her first child-bed, vvater in which the placenta has been 
soaked, water from the first bath of a woman after delivery. 
The original sense of all these beliefs and customs is revealed 
by consideration of the numerous myths and legends, which 
recur in every part of the world without exception, describing 
how pregnancy followed the imbibing of semen, deliberate 
or accidental. 

A great part of our mental life, however, is the echo 
of childhood thoughts, and the child knows nothirig about 
semen. To him the corresponding potent fluid is urine, a 
topic which must next concern us. The prediction was 
ventured above that the various ideas noted in regard to 
salt and water would be found to mirror earlier corre- 
sponding ones relating to semen and urine. Confining our- 
selves for the present to the subject of salt water and 
urine, we find that the resemblances between the ideas 
relating to them are very striking. They may be considered 
by following the order in which the properties of salt were 
enumerated at the outset. 

The significance of salt for friendship, loyalty, hospitality, 
and the ratifying of pacts, was dwelt on above: the same 
customs and ideas can be duplicated in respect of urine. 
Until about three centuries ago it was the vogue in Europe 
to pledge a friend's health in urine/ exactly as we now 
do in wine, and in the same circumstances ; by this, per- 
petual friendship" and loyalty, or even love attachment, 
might be ensured. The same custom still obtains in Siberia, 
where it also signifies a pact of peace. 2 At a Moorish 
wedding the bride's urine is thrown in the face of any 
unmarried man or stranger on whom it is wished to bestow 

1 Bourke: op. cit, p. 129. Numerous references. ('Cobblers* punch' 
means urine with a cinder in it.) 

2 Melville: In the Lena Delta, 1885, p. 318. 


a distinguished favour, 1 just as in other countries salt is 
presented with the same intention. In parts of Russia it 
was customary for the bride to wash her feet and then 
use the water for sprinkling the bridal bed and the ass- 
embled guests; it is probable, as Bourke suggests, 2 that the 
water thus used represents a survival of a former practice 
in which the aspersion was with the urine of the bride. 
The old English custom of the bride selling alcoholic 
liquor — the so-called Bride-Ale — on the wedding-day 3 is 
also likely to be ultimately derived from the same primitive 
source. The Jews still retain the following allied custom at 
their weddings: A goblet of wine is handed to the bride- 
groom by the best man, and after the bridegroom has sipped 
from it he passes it to the principal bridesmaid; she hands 
it to the bride, who also drinks from it. The following 
custom, related by Dulaure, 4 seems to be a question both 
of hospitality and a test of friendship: 4 The Tschuktschis 
offer their women to travellers ; but the latter, to become worthy 
of the offer, have to submit to a disgusting test. The daughter 
or wife who has to pass the night with her new guest 
presents him with a cupful of her urine; with this he has 
to rinse out his mouth. If he is brave enough to do so, 
he is regarded as a sincere friend; if not, he is treated as 
an enemy of the family.' It may be doubted whether the 
construction Dulaure places on this is objectively arrived 
at; at all events it is not likely to be the original ex- 

The magical powers of salt are fully equalled by those 
of urine. In connection with evil spirits and witches it 
played a triple part. In the first place it was used actually 

1 Mungo Park: Travels into the Interior of Africa, 1813, pp. 109, 135. 

2 Bourke: op. cit, p. 232. 

3 Brand: op. cit, Vol. II, p. 143 et seq. 

4 Dulaure: Les Divinit^s G£n6ratricQS, 1825, p. 400. 


to bewitch people for evil purposes. 1 It is interesting to 
note that this might occur even unintentionally. In Africa, 
for instance, it is believed that 'to add one's urine, even 
unintentionally, to the food of another bewitches that 
other, and does him grievous härm'; 2 this may be com- 
pared with the belief, mentioned above, that to give 
salt to someone ptits him in one's power. Secondly, like 
salt, it was used for the detection of witchcraft and of 
witches. 3 Thirdly it was one of the most potent charms 
against evil spirits and witches, and was used as such 
throughout the middle ages. 4 In Ireland 5 urine, especially 
when combined with düng, was invaluable in frustrating 
the mischiefof fairies. It is still used against witches by 
the Eskimos in disorders of childbirth. 6 The Shamans of 
Alaska do the same to keep off evil spirits. 7 Osthanes, 
the magician, prescribed the dipping of our feet, in the 
morning, in human urine, as a preventative against evil 
charms. 8 It is still a practice in France to wash in urine 
so as to guard against the devil and other maleficent 
influences. 9 

In regard to disease there was still more extensive 
application made of urine than of salt, both for diagnostic 
and for therapeutic purposes. As is well-known, urinoscopy 
was in the middle ages one of the principal means of 

1 Frommann: Tractatus de Fascinatione, 1674, p. 683. 

2 Bourke: op. cit, p. 376. 

3 Bourke: op. cit, p. 397. Several references. 

4 Frommann: op. cit, pp. 961, 962; Brand: op. cit, Vol. III, p. 13. 

5 Mooney: 'The Medical Mythology ol Ireland', Trans, of the 
American Philosophie al Society, 1887. 

6 Bourke: op. cit, p. 378. 

7 Boas: Journal of American Folk-Lore, Vol. I, p. 218. 

8 Quoted from Brand: op. cit, p. 286. 

9 Luzel: *Le Nirang des Parsis en Basse Bretagne', Melusine, 
Mai 1888; Reclus: Les Primitifs, 1885, p. 98. 


recognising different diseases, and itwas used for this purpose 
not only in Europe but in Arabia, Tibet, and other parts 
of the world; 1 for instance, in the index to the works ot 
Avicenna there are no fewer than tvvo hundred and seventy- 
five references to the appearance and other physical 
properties of urine in disease. As in the case of salt, this 
divination was connected with ideas of urine, rain, and 
toeather prophesying in general. The use of urine in the 
treatment of disease has been so remarkably comprehensive 
that it is impossible even to touch on the subject here; 
Bourke 2 has collected a vast amount of information dealing 
with it. It may be added that sometimes we find salt 
combined with urine for medical purposes, e. g. to get rid 
of a fever. 3 

The importance of salt for fecundity is if anything 
exceeded by that of urine. It formed the essential constituent 
of many love-philtres and magical procedures having as 
their object the winning of affection. 4 Pliny describes the 
aphrodisiac properties of the urine voided by a bull 
irnmediately after copulation; it may either be drunk or 
used to moisten earth which is then rubbed into the groin. 
Characteristically enough, urine can also be used as an 
anti-aphrodisiac or as a charm against love-philtres. 5 At 
Hottentot weddings the priest urinates over the bride and 
bridegroom, and the latter, receiving the stream with 
eagerness, makes furrows with his nails so that the urine 
may penetrate the farther. 6 

1 Bourke: op. cit, pp. 272-4, 385, 386. 

2 Bourke: op. cit, pp. 277-369, 375, 384. 

3 Wuttke: op. cit, p. 354. 

4 Bourke: op. cit, pp. 216, 217, 223. 

5 Bourke: op. cit, pp. 224-7. 

6 Cook: in * Hawkesworth's Voyages', 1773, Vol. III, p. 387; Kolbein: 
in Knox's 'Voyages', 1777, Vol. II, pp. 399, 400; Thurnberg: in Pinker- 
ton's * Voyages', 1814, Vol. XVI, pp. 89, 141. 


The practice described by Pliny, referred to above, 
has also been recommended as a remedy for the eure of 
impotence. The sovereign eure for this, however, consisted 
in urinating through the wedding-ring, i. e. into an exquisite 
female symbol. This practice is mentioned by most of the 
older writers, 1 and has persisted among the German 
peasantry until the present generation. 2 Pliny 3 states that 
the urine of eunuchs was considered to be highly beneficial 
as a promoter of fruitfulness in women. In Algiers a woman 
seeks to eure barrenness by drinking sheep's urine. 4 
Schurig 5 describes as a method of inducing coneeption the 
use of a bath of urine poured over old iron, with which 
may be compared the magical properties mentioned above 
as being ascribed to the combination of salt and iron. 
Finally two Asiatic legends narrated by Bab 6 may be 
referred to, in which the symbolical equivalence of urine 
and semen appears in the most unmistakable manner. In 
the first one, from Siam, a man urinated daily on to a 
certain apple-tree, with the result that it bore especially 
large fruit. A princess ate one of the apples and thereupon 
became pregnant. In the other, from Cambodia, a hermit 
had the habit of urinating on to a hollowed-out stone. A 
girl who had got lost in the woods (her mother had 
evidently omitted to strew salt as she left the house) 
drank the liquid out of the stone, and likewise became 

1 Reginald Scot; op. cit, p. 64; Frommann: op. cit, p. 997; 
Brand: op. cit, Vol. III, p. 305. 

2 Birlinger and Bück; Sagen, Märchen und Volksaberglauben aus 
Schwaben, 1861, S. 486. 

3 xxviii. 18. 

4 Ploss: Das Weib in der Natur- und Völkerkunde, 1891, Bd. I, 

S. 443. 

6 Schurig: Chylologia, 1725, Vol. II, p. 712. 

6 Bab: Zeitschrift für Ethnologie, 1906, Band XXXVIII, S. 281. 


The use of salt at initiation ceremonies can also be 
paralleled with that of urine. A young Parsee undergoes a 
kind of confirmation during which he is made to drink a small 
quantity of the urine of a bull. 1 At the Hottentot initiation 
ceremony one of the medicine-men urinates over the youth, 
who proudly rubs the fluid into his skin. 2 Corresponding 
with the Christian and Jewish displacemeat of their initiation 
ceremonies (baptism, circumcision) from the time of puberty 
to that of infancy we find a similar displacement in respect 
of urine ceremonies. The Californian Indians give their 
children a draught of urine as soon as they are born, 3 and 
this custom is also in vogue amongst Americans in the 
country districts; 4 these are of course not pure examples 
of initiation. The Inuit child selected to be "trained as an 
Angekok was bathed in urine soon after birth as a religious 
ceremony. 5 When Parsee children are invested with the 
Sudra and Koshti — the badges of the Zoroastrian faith — 
they are sprinkled with the urine of a sacred cow and they 
also have to drink some of it. 6 

The interest aroused by the taste of salt may be 
compared with that taken in the peculiar taste of urine, a 
matter that played a considerable part in medical urinoscopy. 
All bodily fluids, including tears, semen, sweat, blood, etc., 
owe of course most of their taste to the presence of salt 
in them. The natives of Northern Siberia habitually drink 
each other's urine. 7 The African Shillooks regularly wash 
out their miljj: vessels with urine 'probably', so Schweinfurth 8 

1 Monier Williams: Modern India, 1878, p. 178. 

2 Kolbein: op. cit., pp. 202-4; Thurnberg: loc. cit. 

3 Bancroft: op. cit., p. 413. 

4 Trumbull: Quoted by Bourke: op. cit., p. 240. 

5 R6clus: op. cit., p. 84. 

6 Max Müller: Chips from a German Workshop, 1869, p. 164. 

7 Melville: Quoted by Bourke: op. cit, p. 38. 

8 Schweinfurth: The Heart of Africa, 1872, Vol. I, p. 16. 


thinks, 4 to compensate for a lack of salt'; this is also 
done by the natives of Eastern Siberia. 1 The Obbe 2 and 
other 3 natives of Central Africa never drink milk unless it 
is mixed with urine, the reason given being that otherwise 
the cow would lose her milk; we have here a counterpart 
of the custom of mixing salt with the milk so as to ensure 
a plentiful supply. l Chinook olives' are acorns that have 
been steeped for five months in human urine. 4 Of interest 
is the relation of urine to the manufacture of intoxicating 
drinks, it being thus an equivalent to alcohol, as we have 
noted above. When the supply of alcohol runs short in 
Siberia the natives eke it out by making a mixture of 
equal parts of urine and alcohol. 5 In Queensland there is 
an edible nut of a particular species of pine, which is 
prepared for consumption in the following way: clay pans 
are formed in the soil, into which the men urinate; the 
nuts are then steeped in this, when a fermentation takes 
place. The eating of the nuts causes a temporary madness, 
and even delirium tremens. 6 

We have next to note the analogies between the 
significance of salt and that of urine in regard to religious 
Performances. In both cases the substance might be either 
swallowed or applied to the surface of the body, and 
concerning the latter practice it is expedient to make a 
few preliminary remarks. The religious practice of sprinkling 
or baptising with a holy fluid (salt and water in the 
Roman Catholic Church, piain water in the Protestant 
Church) has evidently two principal meanings. In the first 

1 Melville: Quoted byBourke: op. cit., p. 200. 

2 Baker: The Albert Nyanza, 1869, p. 240, 

3 Long: Central Africa, 1877, p. 70. 

4 Kane: An Artist's Wanderings in North America, 1859, p. 187. 

5 Melville^ Quoted by Bourke: op. cit, p. 39. 

6 Mann: Quoted by Bourke: op. cit., p. 38. 


place it symbolises purification, particularly from sin. Pro- 
bably the simplest and most accurate expression for the 
psychological meaning of baptism, as perhaps for that of 
any religious rite, is ' purification through re-birth \ The 
earthly incestuous libido, which is now known to be the 
deepest source of the sense of sin in general, * is over- 
come and purified in. a homeopathic manner by passing 
through a symbolic act of heavenly incest. Purification by 
fire is a distorted form of the more original purification 
by water. It will be noticed that in baptism the liquid 
symbolises both the father's urine (or semen) and the mother's 
uterine waters, satisfying thus both the male and the female 
components of the libido. The oldest association between 
the ideas of liquid and purification is of course the child's 
experience of urine washing away faeces, thus cleansing 
dirt (the deepest source for the objectionableness of 
sexuality). 2 

In the second place baptism imbues the participant 
with the mystic properties conveyed by, or belonging to, 
the holy fluid. This meaning, which was probably the 
original one of the two, is well illustrated in the Hottentot 
rite described above, where the participant Scratches his 
skin so as to absorb as much as possible of the precious 
fluid. At all events we find that the acts of ablution 3 and 
of swallowing are throughout treated as though they were 
identical. Where one is performed in one cöuntry the 
other is in another country in exactly corresponding circum- 
stances, and in numberless instances the two are regarded 

1 Freud: Totem und Tabu, 191 3, S. 144, 145. 

2 Freud; Jahrbuch der Psychoanalyse, Band IV, S. 49, 50. 

3 It should not be forgotten that the original form of Christian 
baptism was complete immersion; the relatively modern custom of 
christening, or sprinkling, is a later replacement of this, and is still 
repudiated by, for instance, the Baptist sect. 


as equivalent. For example, the practice of imbibing water, 
particularly holy water, for the eure of barrenness, as des- 
cribed above, is throughout paralleled by the equally 
common one of bathing in water for the same purpose, 
and often at the same place; Hartland 1 has collected an 
enormous number of instances of this from every part of 
the world and shews that it is to-day as frequent as ever. 

All the evidence, from comparative religions, from 
history, anthropology and folk-lore, converges to the con- 
clusion, not only that Christian and other rites of baptisjn 
symbolise the bestozv?nenl of a vital fluid (sernen or urine) 
on the initiate, but that the holy water there used is a 
lineal descendant of urine, the use of whick it gradually 
disftlaced. Strange as this conclusion may seem it is defin- 
itely supported by the following facts selected from a 
vast number of similar ones. 

To begin with, it is known that salt and water has 
historically replaced urine in various non-religious or semi- 
religious usages. Bourke 2 writes: 'We shall have occasion 
to show that salt and water, holy water, and other liquids 
superseded human urine in several localities, Scotland 
included'. The following is an example of this. One of the 
superstitious uses of urine was to wash the breasts of a 
woman after delivery, no doubt with the aim of securing 
agood supply of milk. Jouan 3 reports from personal experience 
that this Was still customary in France so late as in 1847. 
In Scotland the custom widely prevailed of washing the 
breasts with salt and water in the same circumstances and 
for the same objeet. 4 Again, whenever the supply of salt falls 
short in a given country, particularly in an uneivilised one, the 

1 Hartland: Paternity, op. cit, pp. 77-89. 

2 Bourke: op. cit, p. 211. 

3 Jouan: Quoted by Bourke: loc. cit. 

4 Black: Folk-Medicine, 1883, P- 2 3; Napier: op. cit, pp. 36, 37, 


natives are apt to resort to urine as a Substitute. Gomara 1 
states that human urine served as salt to the Indians 
of Bogota. The Latookas of the White Nile make salt 
from the ashes of goat's düng, 2 which again illustrates 
the conception of salt as the essence of excrement, parti- 
cularly urine. Pallas 3 says that the Buriats of Siberia, in 
collecting salts from the shores of certain lakes, are careful 
as to the taste of the same: 'they employ only those which 
have a taste of urine and of alkali'; Bourke, 4 referring to 
this, adds: l this shows that they must once have used 
urine for salt, as so many other tribes have done'. The 
Siberians gave human urine to their reindeer in place of 
salt, 5 presumably to improve their yield of milk. They also 
used urine to obtain water from snow by melting it, just 
as we use salt to prevent the formation of ice on our 
doorsteps. The Dinkas of Central Africa use the urine of 
cows for washing and as a Substitute for salt, but here 
other motives also enter in, for with them cattle are sacred 
animals. 6 Urine has been used for a very great number 
of industrial purposes, in many of which it has since been 
superseded by salt; 7 it is not necessary to enumerate 
them here. 

One of the earliest uses of salt was for cleansing 
purposes. In Ancient Rome salt and water was used instead 
of toilet p^per, every latrine containing a bücket of it. 8 
The use of urine as a fluid for washing the body has been 

1 Gomara: Historia de las Indias, p. 202. 

2 Baker: op. cit, p. 224. 

'< Pallas: Voyages, 1793, Vol. IV, p. 246. 

4 Bourke: op. cit, p. 193. 

5 Cochrane; Pedestrian Journey through Siberian Tartary, 1824, 

P- 235. 

6 Schweinfurth : op. cit, p. 58. 

7 Bourke: op. cit, pp. 177-200. 

8 Bourke: op. cit, p. 135. 


reported from the most diverse parts of the world: thus, 
in Alaska, 1 in Iceland, 2 in Ounalashka (in Russia), 3 amongst 
the Californian Pericuis, 4 the Siberian Tchuktchees, 5 and 
the Vancouver Indians. 6 The custom persisted in Spain 
until quite recent times, and even in the present generation 
it was to be traced among the Spanish settlers in Florida. 7 
Petroff 8 states that the peasants of Portugal still wash their 
clothes in urine, and German, Irish and Scandinavian 
immigrants in the United States persist in adding human 
urine to the water to be used in cleansing blankets. 9 The 
use of urine as a mouth-wash is also very prevalent. Baker 10 
writes: ( The Obbo natives wash out their mouths with their 
own urine. This habit may hajve originated in the total 
absence of salt in their country'. The Basques and some 
Hindoos do the same, and thö custom used to obtain in 
England and Germany; in Spaih and Portugal it persisted 
until the end of the eighteenth Century. 11 

We may now return to the religious aspects of the 
subject. The Romans held a feast to the mother of all 
the Gods, Berecinthia, at which the matrons took their 
idol and sprinkled it with their urine. 12 Berecinthia was one 

1 Coxe: Russian Discoveries, 1803, p. 225, quoting Krenitzin. 

2 Hakluyt: Voyages, 1599, Vol. I, p. 664. 

3 Solovoof: Voyages, 1764, p. 226. 

4 Clavigero: Historia de Baja California, 1852, p. 28; Bancroft, 
op. cit, p. 559. 

5 Lisiansky: Voyage round the World, 181 1, p. 214; Meiviile: In 
the Lena Delta, loc. cit; Gilder, quotedby Bourke: op. cit., pp. 202, 203. 

6 Swan: 'The Indians of Cape Fl attery', Smith soni an Contributions 
to Knowledge, No. 220, p. 19. 

7 Bourke: op. cit., pp. 203, 205. Many references. 

8 Petroff: Trans, of the American Anthropologie al Society, 1882, 
Vol. I. 

9 McGiüicuddy: Quoted by Bourke: op. cit, p. 205. 

10 Baker: op. cit., p. 240. 

11 Bourke: op. cit, pp. 203-5. 

12 Torquemada: Quoted by Bourke: op. cit, p. 394. 


of the names under which Cybele or Rhea, the primal 
earth Goddess, was worshipped by the Romans and by 
many nations of the East. Juvenal (Sixth Satire) describes 
how in the rites of the Bona Dea her image used to be 
sprinkled with copious irrigations of urine. In the early days of 
Christianity the Manichaean sect used to bathe in urine. 1 It is 
related of an Irish king, Aedh, that he obtained some urine of 
the chief priest, bathed his face in it, drank some with gusto, 
and said that he prized it more highly than the Eucharist 
itself. 2 

In modern religions of civilised peoples, however, 
human urine is never used, having been replaced by water, 
salt and water, or cow's urine. The sacred drink hum 
of the Parsees has the c urine of a young, pure cow' as 
one of the ingredients. 3 In the Bareshnun ceremony the Parsee 
priest has to undergo certain ablutions wherein he applies 
to his body cow's urine, 4 and to rub the nirang (cow's 
urine) over his face and hands is the second thing every 
Parsee does after rising in the morning. 5 The latter cer- 
emony is by no means a simple one; for instance, he is 
not allowed to touch anything directly with his hands until 
the sacred nirang has first been washed off with water. 
In India the urine of a cow is a holy water of the very 
highest religi o us significance. It is used in cer emonies of 
purification, during which it is drunk . 6 Dubois 7 says that a 
Hindoo penitent 'must drink the panchakaryam, — a word 
which literally signifies the five things, namely, milk, butter, 

1 Picart: Coütumes et Ceremonies Religieuses, 1729, p. 18. 

2 Melusine, Mai 5, 1888. 

3 Max Müller: Biographies of Words, 1888, p. 237. 

4 Kingsley: Quoted by Bourke: op. cit, p. 211. 

5 Max Müller: Chips, etc., op. cit., p. 163. 

6 De Gubernatis: Zoological Mythology, Engl. Transl., 1872, 
Vol. I, p. 95. 

7 Abb^ Dubois: The People of India, 1817, p. 29. 


curd, düng, and urine, all mixed together', and he adds: 
4 The urine of a cow is held to be the most efficacious of 
any for purifying all imaginable uncleanness. I have often 
seen the superstitious Hindu accompanying these animals 
when in the pasture, and watching the moment for receiving 
the urine as it feil, in vessels which he had brought for 
the purpose, to carry it home in a fresh State; or, catch- 
ing it in the hollow of his hand, to bedew his face and 
all his body. When so used it removes all external impurity, 
and when taken internally, which is very common, it cleanses 
all within. 1 Moor 1 similarly writes: ( The greatest . . . of all 
purifiers is the urine of a cow. Images are sprinkled with 
it. No man of any pretensions to piety or cleanliness would 
pass a cow in the act of staling without receiving the holy 
stream in his hand and sipping a few drops. 1 Hindoo 
merchants at Bokhara mix with their food, that it may do 
them good, the urine of a sacred cow kept in that place. 2 
At the Poojah sacrifice the Brahmans prepare the room 
by sprinkling the floor with cow's urine. 3 In one of the 
Hindoo fasts the devotee adopts as his food the excreta 
of cows, the urine being allowed as a beverage for the 
fourth day. 4 The antiquity of urine rites in India is shewn 
by the fact that they are frequently referred to in the 
oldest of their canonical books. The Brahminical authors 
of the Maha-Bharata describe how, at the coronation of 
a Maharajah, Krishna brings the urine of the sacred cow 
and pours it over the King's head. 5 In the Shapast la 
Shayast much stress is laid on bull's urine as a purifier. 6 

1 Moor: The Hindu Pantheon, 1810, p. 143. 

2 Erman: Siberia, 1848, Vol. I, p. 384. 

3 Maurice: Indian Antiquities, 1800, Vol. I, p. 77. 

4 Maurice: op. cit., Vol. V, p. 222. 

s Wheeler: History of India, 1867, Vol. I, p. 37 1. 
6 Sacred Books of the East, Vol. V, Part I. 


These rites exist not only in India proper, but also on the 
slopes of the Himalayas, 1 and from India they were introduced 
into Persia; the Kharda Avesta has preserved the formula 
to be recited by a devotee while he holds in his hand the 
urine of a cow, preparatory to washing his face with it. 2 

We need not discuss the various cloud, moon, and 
other supposed symbolisms of the rites in question, for it 
is no longer tenable that these are anything more than 
secondary developments of more primitive interests. After 
dealing with the subject of animal sacrifice, and shewing 
that this is a later development of the original human 
sacrifice, a conclusion amply confirmed by the work done 
since his time, Bourke 3 pertinently asks: 4 If the cow have 
displaced a human victim, may it not be within the limits 
of probability that the ordure and urine of the sacred 
bovine are Substitutes, not only for the complete carcass, 
but that they symbolize a former use of human excreta?' 
This question we can to-day with a high degree of proba- 
bility answer in the affirmative, for both anthropological 
and psycho-analytical research agree in the conclusion that 
excessive, e. g. religious, interest in any animal is only a Sub- 
stitute for a corresponding interest in some human being. 
There can be no doubt that the cow, for instance, is a 
typical mother-symbol, just as the Lamb of God in Christian 
mythology is a symbol of Christ, i. e. of the son. 

From this point of view the devil's custom of using 
his urine to baptise, and bless, his worshippers at the 
witches' Sabbath 4 must be regarded, not— as the mediaeval 

1 Short: 'Notes on the Hill Tribes of the Neilgherries', Trans, 
oj the Ethnological Society, 1868, p. 268. 

2 De Gubernatis: op. cit., pp. 99-100. 

3 Bourke: op. cit., p. 125. 

4 Thiers: Traite des Superstitions, 1741, Vol. II, p. 367; Picart: 
op. cit., Vol. VIII, p. 69. 


theologians indignantly thought — as constituting a wanton 
caricature of the Christian rites, but as a reversion 
to the most primitive form of these. Caricature, like wit, 
is often really a reversion to the unconscious source of 
the caricatured idea. An example of it may be quoted 
from another field, one which also depends on the sym- 
bolic equivalent of urine and holy water: In a caricature 
by Isaac Cruikshank, dated March 17, 1797, of Napoleon 
giving audience to the Pope, a French grenadier is re- 
presented urinating into a chamber-pot which is labelled 
Holy Water. 1 

The almost universal custom of rubbing a new-born 
child with salt, or bathing it in salt and water, has been 
noted above. In some parts of the world the original fluid, 
urine, which has been so widely displaced for this purpose 
by salt, is still in use, or was in historical times. 2 Soranus 
discusses at length the Roman custom of bathing infants 
with the urine of a boy who has not reached puberty 
(thus a peculiarly innocent and pure fluid). The Hottentots 
use fresh cow's urine for this purpose, while the Indians 
in Alaska employ horse urine. 

The association between urine rites and religious 
dancing is especially close in many parts of the world. 
Bourke 3 gives a detailed account of the 'urine dance* of 
the Zunis in New Mexico, and draws an instructive analogy 
between it and the famous Feast of Fools in mediaeval 
Europe. 4 In a painstaking analysis of the circumstances in 
which dancers in Alaska bathe in urine he has further 
established the religious significance of this custom there 

1 Broadley: Napoleon in Caricature, 191 1, p. 94. 

2 Numerous instances are related by Ploss: Das Kind in Brauch 
und Sitte der Völker, Zweite Aufl., 191 1. 

8 Bourke: op. cit., pp. 4-10. 
4 Bourke: op. cit., pp. 11-23. 


also. * The same association exists as well in various other 
parts of the world, in Africa, Siberia, North America, etc. 2 
The ideas that are connected together in these ceremonies 
are: alcoholic or other intoxication, religious ecstasies, urine 
rites (drinking and bathing), and sexual excitement. In this 
connection I venture to throw out the Suggestion that 
perhaps philological research might establish an etymological 
relationship between the Latin word sal and the verbs 
saltare and salire ( = to leap or dance). 3 From saltus 
( = leap) comes the English saltier (St. Andrew's cross), 
the Substantive salt (meaning sexual desire, especially of 
animals), and the adjective salt (= lecherous); 4 further 
words from the same source are assault (adsaltare), assail 
(adsalire), sally, exult, and salient, all of which stand in a 
psychological relationship to the present subject. The idea 
of dancing is of course, now as formerly, closely con- 
nected with eroticism, and often also with religion. 6 

Something will now be said about the symbolic signif- 
icance attaching to the mingling of two liquids, which is 
ultimately derived from the infantile idea, mentioned above, 
that the sexual act consists in the combining of the urine 
of two people. In various customs and beliefs urine has, 
quite comprehensibly, been replaced by other bodily fluids, 

1 Bourke: op. cit., pp. 206-8. 

2 Bourke: op. cit, pp. 208-10. 

a Since writing the above I find that Schieiden (op. cit, S. 17) 
expresses a similar thought, suggesting that sal and salire are both 
derived from the Sanscrit 'sar', a root which will be considered latet 
in this essay. 

4 cp. Shakespeare's ' salt as wolves in pride ' (Othello: Act III, Sc. 3). 

5 Brill : £ The Psychopathology of the New Dances', New York 
Medical Journal, April 25, 1914« 

6 Bourke: op. cit, p. 24. 


particularly the vital ones such as blood. Salt and water 
has also played an important part in this way. 

The interchange of blood as a means of binding two 
people together with lasting ties is a very general rite. 
Hartland 1 says of it: 'The Blood-Covenant, as it is called, 
is a simple ceremony. It is sufficient that an incision be 
made in the neophyte's arm and the flowing blood sucked 
from it by one of the clansmen, lipon whom the Operation 
is repeated in turn by the neophyte. . . . Sometimes the 
blood is dropped into a cup and diluted with water or 
wine. Sometimes food eaten together is impregnated with 
the blood. 2 Sometimes it is enough to rub the bleeding 
wounds together, so that the blood of both parties is 
mixed and smeared upon them both. Among the Kayans 
of Borneo the drops are allowed to fall upon a cigarette, 
which is then lighted and smoked alternately by both 
parties. But, whatever may be the exact form adopted, 
the essence of the rite is the same, and its ränge is world- 
wide. It is mentioned by classical writers as practised by 
the Arabs, the Lydians, and Iberians of Asia Minor, and 
apparently the Medes. Many passages of the Bible, many 
of the Egyptian Book of the Dead, are inexplicable apart 
from it. Ancient Arab historians are füll of allusions to it. 
Odin and Loki entered into the bond, which means for us 
that it was customary among the Norsemen— as we know, 
in fact, from other sources. It is recorded by Giraldus of 
the Irish of his day. It is described in the Gesta Roman- 
orum. It is related of the Huns or Magyars, and of the 
mediaeval Roumanians. Joinville ascribes it to one of the 
tribes of the Caucasus; and the Rabbi Petachia of 

1 Hartland: Perseus, op. cit., pp. 237, 238. See in general pp.236-58, 
also Strack: Das Blut im Glauben und Aberglauben der Menschheit, 1900. 

2 The resemblance of these two last-mentioned customs to the 
Eucharist of the Christian Churches is unmistakable. 


Ratisbon, who travelled in Ukrainia in the tvvelfth Century, 
found it there. In modern times every African traveller 
mentions it; and most of them have had to undergo the 
ceremony. In the neighbouring island of Madagascar it is 
well known/All over the Eastern Archipelago, in Australia, 
in the Malay peninsula, among the Karens, the Siamese, 
the Dards on the northern border of our Indian empire, 
and many of the aboriginal tribes of Bengal, the wild 
tribes of China, the Syrians of Lebanon and the Bedouins, 
and among the autochthonous peoples of North and South 
America, the rite is, or has been quite recently, in use. 
Nor has it ceased to be practised in Europe by the 
Gipsies, the Southern Slavs and the Italians of the Abruzzi. 
The band of the Mala Vita in Southern Italy, only broken 
up a year or two ago, was a blood-brotherhood formed 
in this way. Most savage peoples require their youths at 
the age of puberty to submit to a ceremony which admits 
them into the brotherhood of the grown men, and into 
all the rights and privileges of the tribe. Of this ceremony 
the blood-covenant is usually an essential part, as it is 
also, either actually or by symbol, in the initiation-rite not 
only of the Mala Vita, but of almost all secret societies, 
both civilised and uncivilised.' 

The giving of blood, therefore, exactly like that of 
salt, symbolises friendship, loyalty, compact, and initiation 
into manhood. More than this, in many countries it is 
closely connected with marriage, and may actually constitute 
the marriage ceremony. The marriage rite of the Dusuns, 
in Banguey, consists in transferring a drop of blood from 
a small incision made in the calf of a man's leg to a 
similar cut in the woman's leg. 1 The marriage of the Wukas, 
a tribe of New Guinea, is performed by mutual cuts made 

1 Hartland: op. cit., p. 339. The original references may be 
found there. 


by the husband and wife in each other's forehead. 1 Among 
the Birhors of India the wedding ceremony consists entirely 
in drawing blood from the little fingers of the bride and 
bridegroom, and smearing it on each other; 2 a similar, 
though more complicated, ceremony is performed by the 
Käyasth, or writer caste of Behar. 

Among several races of India, in the wedding ceremony 
known as sindür dän, the substance used is red lead, 
which the bridegroom smears on the bride's forehead with 
his little finger or a knife; Hartland 3 has shewn that this 
is a later development of the more primitive custom, the 
red lead simply replacing the blood. In some instances the 
two are combined: in the Kewat caste the sindür dein 
rite is first carried out, and then blood is drawn from 
the little finger of the bridegroom's right hand and of the 
bride's left; the blood is mingled in a dish of boiled rice 
and milk, and each person eats the food containing the 
other's blood. 4 Similarly in the Rajput ritual the family 
priest fills the bridegroom' s hand with sindür and marks 
the bride's forehead with it; on the next day each of 
them is made to chew betel with which a drop of blood 
from the other's little finger has been mixed. 5 Among the 
Kharwär, and also the Kurmi, the bridegroom smears the 
bride with a mixture of his own blood and of paint. 6 Blood 
rites of the same kind were also performed at Finnish and 
Norwegian marriages. 7 

More or less elaborate symbolisms of the primitive rite 
are frequent enough. An Australian bridegroom spits on 

1 Hartland: loa cit. 

2 Hartland: op. cit., p. 336. 

3 Hartland: op. cit, pp. 334-6. 

4 Hartland: op. cit., p. 337. 

5 Hartland; loc. cit. 

6 Hartland: loc. cit. 

7 Hartland: op. cit., p. 341. 


his bride, and then streaks her with red powder down to 
the navel. 1 A Carib will sometimes betroth himself to an 
unborn babe, conditionally on its being a girl, by making 
a red mark over the mother's womb. 2 In the East Indies, 
in Borneo, and in parts of Southern India, fowrs blood is 
used instead of human blood. 3 Blood, like urine, has also 
been extensively used in Europe as a love charm or philtre, 4 
of which custom one example will suffice: lovers who 
wished to heighten the affections of their mistresses used 
to transfuse their own blood into the loved one's veins. 5 
An example of Condensed symbolism is afforded by a 
Mexican saga, according to which a dead man's bone (i. e. 
the phallus of an ancestor, or father) when sprinkled with 
blood produced the father and mother of the present race 
of mankind. 6 

We see from the facts just quoted that blood, like 
urine, has all over the world been treated as an equivalent 
of salt, as a vital or holy material. The thesis that external 
application is symbolically the same as drinking is confirmed 
in this case as well. Customs and beliefs very similar to 
those just mentioned could be collected in respect of various 
other bodily fluids, of which only one or two instances will 
be given. The sweat of the Finnish deity Wainemoinen 
was a balm for all diseases, and the same was true of the 
Egyptian God Ra. 7 The Scandinavian Frost-Giants were 
born of the sweat of the Giant Ymir. 8 It is probable that 

1 Hartland: op. cit, p. 342. 

2 Hartland: loc. cit. 

3 Hartland: op. cit, p. 343. 

4 Numerous examples are given by Hartland; op. cit, pp. 124, 125. 

5 Flemming : De Remediis ex Corpore Humano desuntis, 1738, p. 15. 

6 Southey's Commonplace Book: Edited by Warter, 1850, Vol. 
IV, p. 142. 

7 Lenormant: Chaldean Magic: Its Origin and Development, Engl. 
TransL, 1877, p. 247. 

8 Hartland: Patemity: op. cit., p. 2. 


the salt taste of sweat has always Struck the Observation 
of mankind. This is certainly so with tears, where literary 
allusions to their saltness abound : thus in King John (Act V, 
Sc. 7 ): 

Prince Henry. O, that there were some virtue in my tears, 
That might relieve you! 

King John\ The salt in them is hot. 

The interest in the combination of salt and water has 
naturally been extended to the sea, which has always played 
an important part in the birth fancies of mankind. The 
association is evident in the use of the Greek word dX^ 
(Latin sale) to express both 'salt' and 'sea\ The contrast 
between fire and water has often been seized upon 
to represent the contrast between male and female 
elements respectively. The relation between salt and fire 
is much more extensive than we have here described; 
most of the customs and beliefs mentioned above 
could be paralleled by similar ones in which it is 
necessary to throw salt into the fire in order to produce 
the desired effect. 1 In mythology the combination of fire 
and water (male and female elements) is symbolised with 
especial frequency by alcohol, which presumably was the 
essential constituent of the various sacred drinks 01 which 
we read; with singular appropriateness the North American 
Indians refer to alcoholic beverages as ( fire-water\ 

The association between the ideas fire — salt — sea are 
well shewn in the following myths. From the mythical lore 
ofFinland we learn that Ukko, the mighty God of the sky, 

3 The etymological aspects of this relationship will be discussed later. 


Struck fire in the heavens; a spark descended from this 
was received by the waves and became salt. 1 This example 
is especially instructive for more than one reason. In the 
first place we here have salt directly derived from fire, 
thus confirming our previous surmise of the symbolic 
equivalency of the two. In the next place, as Abraham 2 
has clearly demonstrated, heavenly fire descending upon 
earth, e. g. lightning, is mythologically only another variant 
of the various divine drinks (soma, ambrosia, nectar) that 
symbolise the male fertilising fluid; this is in obvious accord 
with the view here maintained of the seminal symbolism 
of salt. 

In another myth we have the Prometheus-like bringer 
of salt regarded as a Messiah. Lawrence 3 writes: 'The 
Chinese worship an idol called Phelo, in honor of a mytho- 
logical personage of that name, whom they believe to have 
been the discoverer of salt and the originator of its use. 
His ungrateful countrymen, however, were tardy in their 
recognition of Phelo's merits, and that worthy thereupon 
left his native land and did not return. Then the Chinese 
declared him to be a deity, and in the month of June 
each year they hold a festival in his honor, during which 
he is everywhere sought, but in vain; he will not appear 
until he comes to announce the end of the world.' The 
Prometheus theme of a God bringing an all-precious sub- 
stance as a gift to mankind 4 is here worked into a form 
that closely resembles the Jewish conception of a Messiah 
that has to be sought and the Christian one of a prophet 
who was not received when he delivered his message, but 
who will return to announce the end of the world. 

1 Quoted from Lawrence: op. cit, p. 154. 

2 Abraham: op. cit., S. 49, 62, etc. 

3 Lawrence: op. cit., pp. 154, 155. 

* See Abraham : op. cit., for a füll analysis of the Prometheus myth. 


Tacitus 1 refers to the belief that salt is the product 
of the strife between fire and water, a belief evidently 
mirroring the infantile sadistic conception of coitus, but 
one that happens to have an objective basis in regard to 
the evaporating action of the sun's heat. On a lowlier 
plane vve may refer to the connection between fire and 
water as shewn by some practices carried out for the 
purpose of obtaining children. A Transylvanian Gipsy 
woman is said to drink water into which her husband has 
cast hot coals, or, better still, has spit, saying as she 
does so: ' Where I am Harne, be thou the coals! Where I 
am rain be thou the water P 2 A South Slavonic woman 
holds a wooden bowl of water near the fire on the hearth. 
Her husband then strikes tvvo firebrands together until 
the sparks fly. Some of them fall into the bowl, and she 
then drinks the water. 3 Of the many instances of associ- 
ation between the ideas of fire and urine one only need 
be mentioned: At the yearly ceremony held by the Eskimos 
for the purpose of driving out an evil spirit called Tuna, 
one of the performers brings a vessel of urine and flings 
it on the fire. 4 The ideas, therefore, of fire-salt, fire- 
water, and fire-urine are thus seen to be closely related 
in the primitive mind, a fact which Stands in füll harmony 
with the clinical psycho-analytic finding that the ideas of 
fire, water, urine, and semen are interchangeable equi- 
valents in the unconscious, fire being a typical symbol 
for urine. 

Leaving now the subject of fire we have to note a 
few more beliefs concerning salt and water, particularly in 

1 Cited by Schieiden: op. cit, S. n. 

2 Ploss: Das Weib, loc. cit. 

3 Krauss: Sitte und Brauch der Südslaven, 1885, S. 531. 

4 Report of the International Polar Expedition to Point Barrozv, 
Washington, 1885, p. 42. 


a female sense (receptive urine). In the cosmogenical myths 
of the islanders of Kadiack it is related that the first 
woman * by making water, produced the seas. ' l In South 
Africa it is also believed that the sea was created by a 
woman, 2 doubtless in the same way. In the creation myth 
of the Australians, on the other hand, it is a God, Bundjil, 
who creates the sea by urinating over the earth for many 
days. 3 Among the Mexican Nahuas, again, the sea is of 
female origin: there the women and girls employed in the 
preparation of salt dance at a yearly festival held in honour 
of the Goddess of Salt, Huixocihuatl, whose brothers the 
rain-gods, as the result of a quarrel, drove her into the 
sea, where she invented the art of making the precious 
substance. 4 In European mythology the sea is conceived 
of as either male or female, though much more often as 
the latter. It Stands in especially close association with the 
various love Goddesses, Aphrodite, Astarte, and the rest. 
Jennings writes: 5 ' Blue is the colour of the u Virgin Maria". 
Maria, Mary, mare } mar, mara, means the "bitterness ", 
or the " saltness " of the sea. Blue is expressive of the 
Hellenic, Isidian, lonian, Yonian (Yoni — Indian), Watery, 
Female, and Moonlike Principle in the universal theogony. 
It runs through all the mythologies.' As is well known, 
Friday is holy to this Goddess in most religions, and is 
named after her in all European languages. On Friday, 
the day of the Virgin Mary, salted meat must not be eaten 
by strict Catholics (compare this with the ascetic absti- 
nence from salt noted above), and, further, the staple food 
is, appropriately enough, fish. There exists in the South 

1 Lisiansky: op. cit, p. 197. 

2 Lang: Myth, Ritual, and Religion, 1887, Vol. I, p. 91. 

3 Smyth: The Aborigines of Australia, 1878, Vol. I, p. 429. 

4 Bancroft: op. cit, Vol. II, p. 353. 

5 Hargrave Jennings: The Rosicmcians, 1887, Vol. I, p. 57. 



of England a spell for turning the heart of a recalcitrant 
lover, which consists in throwing a little salt into the fire 
on three successive Friday nights; on the third one the 
lover is expected to return. 1 That the spell has to be 
carried out just on Friday illustrates very well how detailed 
is the determination of superstitions, and how careful one 
should be before concluding that any minor feature of one 
is devoid of meaning. 

As might have been expected, bathing in the sea 
has been recommended for most of the purposes for which 
the combination of salt and water has been used. The 
following instances are characteristic. In Sardinia to drink 
from, or espccially to bathe in, the sea is held to be a 
eure for childlcssness. 2 Among the negroes in Guinea 
when a woman is pregnant for the first time she has to 
go through an elaborate ceremony of being purified in the 
sea.'' Probably the original sense was to ensure an easy 
and successful labour. 

The whole subjeet of the relation betvveen salt and 
water may be concluded by referring to two practices that 
have nothing to do with the sea. A method of curing 
disease in Germany is to throw a handful of salt into 
water while these words are being repeated: M strew this 
seed (!) in the name of God; when this seed grows I 
shall see my fever againV 1 A superstition in Bohemia says 
that when milk is being carried over water one should 
throw some salt into the water, otherwise the cow will 
be harmed. 5 It was remarked above that milk has the same 
symbolic significance as salt and here we see the two 

1 Henderson: loc. cit. 

2 Rivista delle Tradizioni Populär i Italiane, 1894, Vol. II, p. 423. 
:i Bosman: In Pinkerton: op. cit, Vol. XVI, p. 423. 

4 Wuttke: op. cit., S. 335. 

5 Wuttke: op. cit., S. 447. 


substances treated interchangeably. In this connection it is 
of interest that Browning, in bis 4 Pietro of Abano ', changes 
the usual belief that sorcerers cannot tolerate salt by 
describing how a magician dare not drink milk; the poet's 
insight revcals the meaning of this: 

All's but daily dry bread: what makes moist the ration? 
Love, the milk that sweetens man his meal — alas, you lack: 

In several of the varieties of the Cinderella theme (e. g. 
in No. 179 of Grimm's fairy tales) salt is equally plainly 
taken to bc equivalent of love: the third daughter, 011 
being asked by her father to describe her love for him, 
likens it to salt. 

We have next to consider the female, recipient 
substance conceived of as a solid: namely, beliefs devel- 
oped from the liquid-solid and solid-solid hypotheses of 
childhood that were mentioned above. The substance most 
frequently used in this respect is bread, which, from its 
consistence and food-value, readily lends itself to symbolic 
purposes. Many of the superstitious beliefs in which it is 
concerned have already been referred to. Its fertilising 
powers may be illustrated by the Indian practice, performed 
for the eure of barrenness, of 4 eating a loaf of bread 
cooked on the still burning pyre of a man who was never 
married, and who was the only or eldest son in his family, 
and so reeeived the füllest possible measure of vitality'. 1 
The association between- bread and exerement is even 
more plainly shewn in the following Slavonic beliefs. The 
spirits of fruitfulness were supposed to dwell in the dung- 

1 Census of India, 1901, XVII, p. 164. 


heaps, and offerings used to be made to them there. In 
later times witches were believed to hold their revels there, 
and it was not safc for a peasant to relieve himself.on the 
spot without having in his mouth a piece of bread as a 
charm. 1 In England the people used to throw wheat on 
the bride's head as she returned from the church, 2 evid- 
ently a precursor of the more modern fertility (seminal) 
symbol of rice. 

The wide-spread use of the combination of salt and 
bread for all the purposes for which salt alone is used 
(confirming oaths, warding off evil, etc.) has been previously 
described. The sexual significance of the combination comes 
to opcn expression in the following instances. In Waiden- 
burg the bride secretly places salt and bread in her shoe 
so that she mav be blessed with children; 3 the fecunditv 
significance of the shoe, which is a typical yoni symbol 
(hence the throwing of it at weddings), has been fully 
described by Aigremont. 4 In the Potsdam Kreis betrothed 
couples place salt and bread in their shoes,° with of course 
the same meaning. In Russia salt and bread are the first 
articles to be carried into the dwelling of a newly married 
pair. 6 Among the Southern Slavs the combination in question 
is used as a love charm, 7 vvhile in the more pious canton 
of Berne it has the function of fortifying against temptation 
the person who carries it. 8 Going back to Ancient Rome 
we find that Ceres, the grain Goddcss, and Neptune, the 

1 Krauss: Slavische Volksforschungen, 1908, S. 71. 

2 Moffet: Health's Improvement, 1655, P- 2l8 - 

3 Aigremont: Fuss- und Schuh-Symbolik und Erotik, 1909, S. 55; 
Wuttke: op. cit., S. 370. 

4 Aigremont: op. cit., S. 42-64. 

5 Seligmann: op. cit, S. 38. 

6 Lawrence: op. cit, p. 185. 

7 Krauss: op. cit., S. 169. 

n Lawrence: op. cit., p. 182. 


sea God, were worshipped together in the same templej 1 
the wife of Neptune, however, was called Salacia 2 (compare 
our word 'salacious' = libidinous). 

Other substances than salt were used together with 
bread at times, with a similar significance. Perhaps the 
commonest of these was cheese. The combination is very potent 
against the evil eye, especially when carried round the neck; 3 it 
was also used to protect children from witches and malignant 
spirits. 4 In an old Welsh legend bread and cheese is used 
as a love charm to seduce the Lady of the Lake. 5 In this 
combination cheese is evidently the active dement, while 
in others it is treated as the passive, recipient one. This 
is so in the various customs relating to what is called, from its 
association with child-birth, the 'Groaning Cheese* or * Groan- 
ing Cake'; pieces of this, tossed in the midwife's smock, or 
placed under the pillow at night, cause young women to 
dream of their lovers. 6 The same is true of the custom, 
which still occasionally obtains in Europe, of using urine 
in the manufacture of cheese. 7 Urine is also used in some 
countries in bread-making, and there is reason to think 
that this was so even in Europe prior to the introduetion 
of barm and yeast; 8 in 1886 a baker in Paris 'regressed' 
so far as to be detected in using water-closet refuse in the 
preparation of bread, which was said to deteriorate in 
quality as soon as the practice was put an end to. 9 The 

1 Frazer: op. cit, Second Edition, 1907, Part IV, 'Adonis, Attis, 
Osiris', p. 412. 

2 Plutarch: op. cit. 

3 Seligmann: op. cit, S. 38, 94. 

4 Brand: op. cit., Vol. II, p. 79. 

5 Rhys: Celtic Folklore, 1901, Vol. I, Ch. I, 'Undine's Cyrmic 
Sisters', pp. 3, 17, 18. 

6 Brand: op. cit., p. 71. 

7 Bourke: op. cit, pp. 18 1-2. 

8 Bourke: op. cit., p. 39. 

9 Bourke: op. cit., p. 32. 


theme of moisture and dryness of bread plays a central 
part in an interesting Welsh legend: 1 A young man who 
had fallen desperately in love vvith a Lake Maiden sought, 
on his mother's advice, to woo her with tlie offer of some 
bread — a naive proposal which would be simply foolish if 
taken literally, but which when read symbolically is seen 
to be füll of meaning. The maiden rejected the offer on 
the ground that the bread was too hard-baked. He returned, 
again on his mother's advice, vvith some unbaked dough, 
but was once more unsuccessful for the opposite reason to 
the previous one. On the third attempt, having achieved 
the proper consistence, he was successful. In another Ver- 
sion of the same group of legends the suitor was enabled 
to capture the maiden through the magic power he had 
attained to by eating a piece of moist bread that she had 
allowed to float ashore. 2 In the Bible (Ezekiel iv. 15) it 
is stated that the Lord commanded the jews to prepare 
their bread with cow's düng instead of with human ordure. 
Finally in this connection may be mentioned the 
combination of szveat and bread. This was believed to have 
powerful aphrodisiac properties, doubtless an extension of 
the exciting effect that the odour of sweat has on many 
people, and at the time of the witches women were accused 
of rubbing dough on their bodies and giving it to men to 
eat in whom they wished to arouse satanic love. 3 We 
probably have here, as Aubrey suggested, 4 the explanation 
of the ancient game of cockle-bread, 5 in which the players, 
young women, go through the pretence of moulding bread 

1 Rhys; op. cit, pp. 4-6, 27, 28. 

2 Rhys: op. cit, p. 17. 

3 Paton: Folk-Lore, Vol. V, p. 277. 

4 Aubrey: Remaines of Gentilisme and Judaisme (1686), 1881 
Edition, p. 43. 

5 See Brand: op. cit, p. 413. 


with their back. It is a Negro, as well as a Belgian, superstition 
that if you give a dog some bread soaked in your sweat he will 
follow you to the ends of the earth : he is yours. 1 We have here 
a repetition of the loyal ty idea so characteristic of salt, the 
bond, however, being cemented here by the combination of 
the male and female elements in place of the male alone. 
Nor is bread the only recipient substance in such 
customs. Of the many other combinations may be mentioned: 
milk and resin, 2 curds and beans, 3 — -both of these com- 
binations are eures for sterility— salt and meal,' 4 — a charm 
to enable girls to see their future lover in a dream — 
sweat and cake, 5 — used throughout Northern and Central 
Europe as a love charm — blood and cake, — used in 
Transylvania for the same purpose— and blood mixed with 
the exerement of a dead person 7 — a eure for impotence. 
The reverse of the same idea is presented in the superstition 
that if one eats an egg without salt one will get a fever, 8 
significance being evidently attached to the combination. 
The erotic meaning of this is indicated by association in the 
saying that ' to kiss a man without a moustache is like 
eating an egg without salt. ' There is of course an extensive 
nativity symbolism attaching to eggs, especially in religion. 
In Bavaria and elsewhere an egg will guard against the 
evil eye. 9 A Devonshire eure for ague was to bury an egg 
in earth at the dead of night. 10 

1 Hartland: Perseus, op. cit, p. 124. 

2 North Indian Notes and Qneries: Vol. III, p. 96. 
:{ Sacred Books of the East: XXIX, p. 180. 

4 Wuttke: op. cit., S. 244. 

5 Hartland: op. cit., p. 123. 

6 Hartland: op. cit, p. 124. 

7 Von Wlislocki: op. cit, S. 140. 

8 Wuttke: op. cit, S. 311. 

9 Seligmann: op. cit, S. 330. 

i° Brand: op. cit, Vol. III, p. 298. 


The act of partaking of the same food has constantly 
been used to symbolise a more intimate union, representing 
the solid-solid infantile hypothesis described above. It is 
a Scandinavian saying that if a boy and girl eat of one 
morsel they grow fond of each other. 1 In many parts of 
the East Indies the betel-nut is employed as a love charm, 
is given as a love pledge, and the chewing of one quid 
by both parties is the essential part of the wedding cere- 
mony. 2 Among the Manchus a dumpling is brought into 
the bed-chamber, when the bride and bridegroom each 
partake of a piecc so as to ensure numerous offspring: ,j 
In Ancient Greece the bride and bridegroom used to eat 
of a quince together. 4 With many Hindoo tribes a woman 
never eats together with a man throughout her whole life, 
with the sole exception of the wedding-day, when after 
the sindür dän ceremony described above she sits at table 
together with her husband. Hartland 5 records a very large 
number of instances, from all parts of the world, in which 
eating together, particularly from the same dish, constitutes 
an important or even essential part of the wedding ceremony, 
and there is no need for us to enumerate any more of 
these. The best known is the confarreatio ceremony of 
the Romans in which the man and woman ate together of 
the sacrificial cake, the panis farreus. Our own wedding- 
cake is a survival of these customs. 6 

The religious significance of the act, as illustrated by 
wedding ceremonies, is of considerable interest. In Christ- 
ianity there has been a close association between it and 

1 Thorpe: Northern Mythology, 185 1, Vol. II, p. 108. 

2 U Anthropologie, Vol. III, p. 194. 

3 Folk-Lore: Vol. I, p. 488. 

4 Plutarch : Solon, xx. 

f) Hartland: op. cit, pp. 343-53; See also Rhys: op. cit, Vol. II, 
PP- 649, 650. 

ß Brand: op. cit, Vol. II, pp. 101, 102; Hartland: op. cit.,pp. 351, 352. 


the rite of the Holy Eucharist. In the old Parisian marriage 
ceremony the priest, after saying mass, blessed a loaf and 
wine; the loaf was bitten and a little of the wine drunk 
by each of the spouses, onc after the other, and the 
officiating priest thfe taking them by the hands led them 
home. In a Yezidi wedding a loaf of consecrated bread is 
handed to the husband, and he and his wife cat it between 
them. The Ncstorians require the pair to take the com- 
munion. Indeed, until the hast revision of the Book of 
Common Prayer the Church of England commanded that 
4 the newly married pcrsons the same day of their marriage 
must receive the Holy Communion', a practice that con- 
tinues to be recommended. 1 

The material of the Eucharist, like all other consecrated 
snbstances, has been endowed with various non-religious 
powers, such as ability to ward off the evil eye, to eure 
sterility, 2 and so on. A curious example, füll of symbolism, 
is the Welsh tradition that 'flying snakes' 3 originated in 
ordinary snakes that had become transformed by drinking 
the milk of a woman and eating the bread of the Holy 
Communion. 4 We have traced above the underlying 
significance of the Catholic salt and water baptism, and 
also that of the various customs and beliefs relating to 
bread. It is interesting that in Italy the combination of salt 
and bread is known as c lumen Christi', and is of course 
endowed with magical properties. 

Consideration of the symbolism dealt with above, 
particularly the equivalency of salt and wine and the 
alimentary connotations of bread, makes it piain that the 

1 The preceding instances are quotedfrom Hartland: op. cit, p. 347. 

2 Hartland: Paternity, op. cit., p. 7. 

• j The armorial emblem of Wales is a dragon. 
* Owen: Welsh Folk-Lore, 1887, p. 349. 
5 Seligmann: op. cit, S. 38. 


deeper significance of the Eucharist and Holy Communion 
is throughout a sexual one. This sexual meaning forced 
itself into open expression with some of the Christian sects. 
Thus, according to St» Augustine, the Manichaeans prepared 
the sacred host by incorporating the Eucharistie bread with 
human semen, and their descendants, the Albigenses and 
Catharistes, preserved this custom. 1 Here, as elsewhere, 
heresy, by unveiling the symbolism of a given aspect of 
religious dogma or ritual, has uncomfortably compromised 
the religion it caricatures, just as the perversions of a 
brother often disclose the meaning of his neuro tic sister's 
Symptoms which are merely disguised manifestations of the 
same tendencies. 

It need hardly be said that demonstratio!! of the sexual 
origin and meaning of the materials used in a given 
religious ritual is far from explaining even the unconscious 
basis of that ritual. To do so with the Eucharist, for 
example, it would be necessary to discuss a number of 
other matters not directly connected with the present 
inquiry, particularly the incestuous basis of the union implied 
in the ceremony, its relation * to theophagy and anthro- 
pophagy, and so on. 

I wish here to say something about an interesting 
feature of superstition in general, and of salt symbolism in 
particular — namely, its ambivalency. It has often puzzled 
observers of superstitions to note that the very same 
custom or happening is supposed in one place to bring 
luck, in another ill luck, in the one place to lead to 
fertility, in another sterility, and so on. The explanation is 
to be found in the ambivalent attitude of consciousness 
to the content of the unconscious, the source of all 

1 See Bourke: op. cit., p. 220, where füll references are given. 


superstitions. If the affect, which is always positive, that 
accompanies the unconscious idea finds a passage-way into 
consciousness, as happens, for instance, in the process 
known as Sublimation, then the attitude towards the 
conscious repräsentative of this idea (i. e. towards the 
symbol) will be correspondingly positive, and the symbolic 
idea will be considered the source of all good. If, on the 
contrary, it is the affect belonging to the ' repressing ' 
tendencies that gets attached to the symbolic idea, then 
the latter will come to be the sign of all that is unlucky 
or dangerous. The same ambivalency is seen in regard to 
all produets of the unconscious, for instance in totemism -— 
whether of the race or of the individual; the same animal 
can be lovcd in infancy and unreasonably feared in later 
childhood. So, as was remarked earlier in this essay, it is 
really irrelevant whether a given superstition is met with 
in a positive or a negative sense, the essential point being 
the evidence given by both of an excessive signiilcance 
derived from the unconscious. 

This ambivalency can be well demonstrated in salt 
superstitions. One finds that practically every attribute 
described above as being attached to the idea of salt may 
in other places be replaced by its exaet* opposite. We 
may illustrate this feature by selecting a few examples of 
contrasting pairs. 

1 . Fruit fulness — Unfmitfulness. 

The remarkably close association between the ideas 
of salt and feeundity was dwelt on in detail in the earlier 
part of this essay (pp. 122, 123, 136, 137), and a few examples 
were also quoted in which the former idea was related to 
that of barrenness. This latter seems to have been more 
especially common in Eastern countries, and is repeatedly 
referred to in the Bible (e. g. 5 Moses xxix. 23; Job xxxix. 6; 


Jeremiah xvii. 6; Psalms cvii. 33, 34, etc.); it is 
also remarked on by Pliny, Virgil, and other classical 
writers. 1 A real ground for it was no doubt the frequent 
sight of salty deserts and vvaste places vvhere an excess 
of salt had prevented all growth. This real justification for 
the association between salt and barrenness makes still more 
striking the far commoner one between it and fertility, and 
again shews how the latter belief must have been caused by 
a false association of ideas, as has been maintained above. 
The analogy is again evident here between the ideas 
of salt, of which either the absence or the excess prevents 
fruitfulness, and sexuality, concerning which the same is 
widely believed. It is thus appropriate that Lot's wife, as 
a punishment for regretting the (homosexual) sins of Sodom, 
should have been turned into a pillar (phallus) of salt. 

2 . Creation — Destruction. 

This antithesis is of course closely allied to the last 
one and might also be expressed as the contrast between 
immortality and death. It has at all ages been a common 
custom to add strength to a curse by strewing salt as a 
symbol of destruction; historical examples are: after the 
destruction of Sichern by Abimelech, of Carthage by the 
Romans, of Padua by Attila, and of Milan by Friedrich 
Barbarossa. The custom seems to have had especial 
reference to the overpowering of a town (a mother symbol), 
another hint of the unconscious association between creation 
and destruction (compare the beliefs in the fructifying and 
the destroying sun). 

3. In the same connection may be mentioned the 
antithesis between the use of salt and the abstention from salt. 
This has been discussed above in relation to religious obser- 
vances and the questionof sexual abstinence (pp. 139, 140, 141). 

1 Schieiden: op. cit, S. 94. 


4 . Value — Worthlessness. 

The extraordinarily high sense of value often attached 
to the idea of salt, and also the close relation between it 
and that of money or wealth, has been described above 
(pp. 1 18, 1 19, 153), and we have now to note the opposite of 
this. Schieiden, 1 after quoting passages from Homer and 
Theocritus to the same effect, says: ( A grain or two of 
salt thus became an expression for the most worthless 
thing that one could name. We still say, when we want 
to denote any thing trifling: "With that one couldn't even 
earn the salt for one's bread 'V The same attitude of 
depreciation is shewn in the joke of the traveller who 
after partaking of an extremely poor meal at an inn called 
the landlord to him and said: 'There was one thing in 
this meal that I have not seen surpassed in all my travels. ' 
On the expectant landlord inquiring what it was, the 
traveller crushingly answered: 'The salt'. 

5 . Health — Unhealthiness. 

We have noted above (pp. 122, 141, 142) the discnssion 
whether the partaking of salt is especially a health-bringing 
procedure or the exact opposite. 

6. Purity — Impiirity. 

Salt has always served as an emblem of immaculateness 
and purity. Pythagoras says in this connection: ( it was 
begotten of the purest parents, of the sun and the sea' 
(another exarnple, by the way, of the signification of fire 
and water that was pointed out above). The important 
part salt has played, e. g. in religion, in regard to purific- 
ation need not again be insisted 011. The extraordinarily 
close association between the ideas of salt and of the 
excretions, i. e. dirty processes, on the other hand, has 
been pointed out in detail above, and we shall presently 

1 Schieiden: op. cit, S. 10 1. 


have to note the same thing in connection with the 
etymological history of the word. There is thus here the 
sharpest contrast between two opposite conceptions. 

7 . Fr iend Lines s — Unfriendliness. 

Whereas the offering of salt is generally a sign of 
friendly intentions, we have also noted examples of the 
exact opposite (pp. 114, 115, 146). 

We have alrcady discussed the significance of this 
striking ambivalency. It is a characteristic of all ideas that 
have deep unconscious roots, and may roughly be said to 
correspond with the antithesis of ' the repressing ' and c the 
repressed'. The obverse of this statement is also true, 
that an idea which shews pronounced ambivalency in its 
affective values must have important associations in the 
unconscious. From the fact alone, therefore, that the idea 
of salt shews such marked ambivalency it could have been 
surmised that it has been invcsted with extrinsic significance 
of unconscious origin. One also gets here a furthcr clue 
as to the meaning of ambivalency: it is evidently related 
to the contrast between on the one hand the over-valuing 
of sexuality in general, and the excremental aspects of 
sexuality in particular, in the unconscious and in infantile 
lifc, and on the other hand the under-valuing of these in 
consciousness and in adult life. An individual analysis, 
however, of the infantile origin of all the separate attributcs 
belonging to the salt idea, e. g. the relation of purification 
to fertilisation, though of considerable importance, cannot 
be undertaken here, for it would lead us too far from the 
main theme of the work. 

We may now pass to another aspect of the subject, 
the etymological one. It is becoming more and more realised 
by psycho-analysts that symbolisms gradually formed through 


i repression ' during the progress of civilisation leave traces 
of their original meaning as word-deposits. It is even prob- 
able that the correctness of the interpretation of a given 
symbol, such as the one attempted in this essay, could 
be accurately tested by being submitted to a sufficiently 
exhaustive comparison with the etymological and semantic 
history of the words denoting the ideas in question. From 
this point of view it becomes desirable, therefore, to say 
a little about the history of the vvord ( salt', though a lack 
of expert knowledge will necessarily render the present 
consideration of it very incomplete. 

It seems to be definitely established that the names. 
for salt in nearly all European languages find their earliest 
expression in an old Celtic word which meant ' water ' or 
4 bog'. Schieiden 1 writes as follows: 'The Celts brought 
with them from their original Indo-Germanic sources some 
form of the root u sar", which in Sanscrit meant in the 
first place " to walk", "to go", u to flow", etc., and then in 
a derived form as u sara" also "river", " water ,f , "sea", 
"pond". No such word meaning salt is to be found in the 
Vedas, in the Avesta, nor in any of the cuneiform writ- 
ings, but in Armenian it occurs as u agh" (g/i is a common 
Substitute for /), thus constituting a bond between "sara" 
( = water) and the Greek aXq 2 (=sea-water and salt). . . . 
Many words that are either truly Celtic or eise have passed 
through the Celtic language still recall the original meaning of 
this root word as u sea ,, ) u lake , ' ) "pond n , "pool", u puddle n . 
In Old Irish "säl" means moor or swamp; "salach" 
is Old Irish, "halou n Old Welsh for dirty; 3 the Old High 
German, Middle High German, and Anglo-Saxon "sol" means 

1 Schlciden: op. cit, S. 15, 16. 

2 The initial s has been replaced by // only in Greek and Welsh. 

3 So the Old Welsh 'halog' (=contaminated, impure) and *halou' 

( =faeces). 



a puddle or pool; the sporting words in German "suhl" 
( = slough) and " suhlen' ' (=to wallow), which are used in 
regard to wild swine; the Low German "sölig", meaning 
dirty, the French "sale" (=unclean, impure). . . . The word 
has always retained a specially close association with the 
idea of water. 1 In Greek the word "hals" with an altered 
gender, feminine, practically means the sea, just as "sal" 
did with the Latin poets. Also the rivers which contained 
salt water or which passed by sources of salt are called 
by names that in all probability are all related to "salt"/ 
(Schieiden then gives a long list of such rivers and places), 

Hehn 2 suggests that aäkoq (=salum), meaning 'bog', 
'lagoon', 'brackish water', belongs to the same series. It 
originally signified the sea outside the harbour, and thus 
also the swell of the sea within the harbour; we get here 
perhaps another hint of the relation between ( saT and 
'salire' mentioned above. 

It has been suggested 3 that this root word 4 sar ' was 
applied to salt to indicate the crackling or spurting of salt 
when thrown into lire or water, and in support of this it 
inay be added that in the only European languages where 
the word for salt does not proceed from this root (Lithuanian 
'druska', Albanian 'kripe') 4 a word signifying 'to strew * 
is used to denote it. This Suggestion is not, however, 
accepted by any philologist, and it seems certain that the 
main reason for the use of ( sar' was the connotation of 
the latter as 'flowing', 'bog', etc., and the resemblance 
of this to salt-wäter. 

It is thus piain that the original signification of the 
word was 'a dirty fluid'. The facts just adduced are 

1 In Ne^y Persian also 'neme' ( = salt) originally. meant 'mpist'.. 

2 Hehn: op. cit, S. 25. 

3 Schleidcn: op. cit., S. 17. 
* Hehn; op. cit., S. 29. 


certainly striking, and, especially in vievv of the derivative 
words that bear the dosest relation to the idea of excremenL 
they may be regarded as an extrinsic confirmation of our 
conclusion — one vvhich vvould hardly have been suspected 
without a detailed investigation — that the idea of salt and 
water is inherently allied to that of excretion, particularly 
urine. What was once a conscious association has in the 
course of centuries become more and more concealed, bat 
though it has disappeared from sight it has in so doing 
by no means disappeared from existence. 


After this somewhat prolonged excursion we may now 
return to our original starting-point, namely, the super- 
stitious belief that to spill salt at table is unlucky. The 
belief is practically universal and was as prevalent in Ancient 
Greece and Rome as in Modern Europe. 1 It has been 
applied to other precious substances besides salt: for 
instance, in China it is unlucky to spill the contents of an 
oil-jar. 2 In Germany even to play with salt is unlucky, 3 and 
for every grain spilt one will have to wait a day (or a 
week) before heaven's gate. 4 

It has been thought that the superstition in question 
arose from the over-spilling of the salt by Judas at the 
Last Supper, 5 a rationalistic explanation on a level with 
that which traces the superstitions concerning the number 
thirteen to the presence of thirteen at the same meal. 
Folk-beliefs of this order have a far wider and older ränge 
than purely Christian ones. The evidence adduced above 
points unequivocally to a quite different explanation, one 

1 Lawrence: op. cit, pp. 167, 168. 

2 M. Cox: An Introduction to Folk-Lore, 1904, p. 10. 

3 Wuttke: op. cit, S. 311. 

4 Wuttke: loc. cit 

r > Lawrence: op. cit, p. 166. 


which may be indicated by comparing the unlucky act in 
question with that of Onan described in Genesis (xxxviii. 9). 
In the light of it attention may be directed to the following 
features of the superstition. Although the Spilling of salt is 
supposed to bring ill-luck in general, 1 its specific effect is 
to destroy friendship 2 and to lead to quarrelling; 8 moreover 
it brings ill-luck to the person towards whom the salt 
falls 4 as much as to the one who has spilt it. It acts, in 
other words, by disturbing the harmony of two people 
previously engaged in amicable intercourse. From what has 
been said above about the unconscious symbolism of eating 
in Company it will be intelligible why the Spilling of a vital 
substance at such a moment should be feit to be, some- 
how or other, a peculiarly unfortunate event. To the un- 
conscious, from which the affective significance arises, it is 
equivalent on one plane to ejaculatio praecox, and on a 
more primitive plane to that form of infantile 'accident' 
which psycho-analysis has shewn 5 to be genetically related 
to this unfortunate disorder. The original meaning of the 
superstition is hinted at in the Prussian belief 6 that to spill 
salt at a wedding betokens an unhappy marriage, and in 
the opinion of the 'antiques', 7 who 

c thought love decay'd 
When the negligent maid 
Let the salt-cellar tumble before them\ 
It is probable that the ill-luck was formerly conceived 
of as rendering the salt-spiller susceptible to the malevolent 

1 Brand: op. cit, Vol. III, pp. 160, 162. 

2 Lawrence: op. cit, pp. 169-71. 

3 Brand: loc. cit; Lawrence: op. cit., pp. 166, 167. 

4 Lawrence: op. cit, p. 166; Brand: op. cit, pp. 161, 162. 

5 Abraham: 'Über Ejaculatio praecox', Internationale Zeitschrift 
für Psychoanalyse, 1916, Bd. IV, S. 171. 

6 Wuttke: op. cit, S. 210. 

7 Brand: op. cit, p. 163. 


influences of evil spirits, 1 and the throwing of salt over the 
left Shoulder, with the idea of averting the ill-luck, 2 has 
been thought to have the object of hitting the invisible 
demon in the eye and so disabling him. 3 This apparently 
wild Suggestion has its proper meaning, which we need not 
go into here, but it is more likely that the true object of 
the proceeding was to make a propitiatory offering to the 
demon; 4 it has a suspicious resemblance to the Burmese 
custom of throwing food over the left Shoulder in order to 
conciliate the chief spirit of evil. 5 The maleficium of evil 
beings is predominantly concerned with interference with 
sexual relations and disturbances of the sexual functions; 
I have elsewhere pointed out in detail that the dread of 
it comes from the fear of impotence/' Counter-charms 
against maleficium largely consist of symbolic acts which 
either assert the person's potency or serve to re-establish 
it; instances of both kinds may be found in connection 
with the averting of evil due to the spilling of salt. In the 
latter class may be counted the procedure of throwing 
some of the spilt seilt, over the left Shoulder, into the 
fire, 7 the symbol of virility; this custom is still practised in 
America. 8 To the former class belong the counter-charms 
of throwing some of the salt out of the window, 9 and of 
crawling under the table and Coming out on the opposite 
side: 10 to throw something through an aperture, or to crawl 

1 Lawrence: loc. cit. 

2 Dalyell: op. cit., p. 101. 

3 Lawrence: op. cit, p. 167. 

4 Dalyell: loc. cit; Lawrence: loc. cit 

5 Lawrence; loc. cit. 

G Der Alptraum, loc. cit. 

7 Brand: op. cit, p. 161. 

8 Johnson: What they say in New England, 1896, p. 92. 
» Wuttke: op. cit, S. 312. 

10 Lawrence; op. cit, p. 170. 


through one, symbolises in folk-lore, dreams, and mythology, 
the efFecting of the sexual act, a symbolism which has 
given rise to a large group of beliefs and customs. 1 The 
explanation of why the salt has to be thrown backwards, 
and why precisely over the left Shoulder, would open up 
themes too extensive for us to enter on here; it is one of 
the many respects in which the analysis offered in this 
essay remains incomplete. 

Two alternative hypotheses were set forth above con- 
cerning the origin of the excessive significance that has so 
widely been attached to the idea of salt, and it is main- 
tained that the evidence detailed establishes an enormous 
balance of probability in favour of the second one. Accord- 
ing to this a great part of the significance is derived, not 
from ideas relating to salt itself, but from ideas with which 
these have been unconsciously associated. Significance has 
been unconsciously transferred to the subject of salt from 
emotional sources of the greatest importance to the per- 
sonality. The natural properties of salt, which in themselves 
can account for only a part of the feeling with which the 
salt-idea has been invested, are of such a kind as to render 
the association of it with another substance, of universal 
import, an easily-made, if not an inevitable one. The 
significance naturally appertaining to such an important and 
remarkable article of diet as salt has thus been strengthened 
by an accession of psychical significance derived from deeper 
sources. Freud's view that superstitions always have a 
hidden logical meaning, that they constitute a betrayal of 
unconscious mental processes, is thereby fully confirmed in 
this particular example, as it has been with all the other 

1 Röheim: 'The Significance of Stepping over', International 
Journal of Psycho- Analysis, 1922, Vol. III. 


superstitions I have investigated. This hidden meaning has 
the characteristic attrib\ites of the unconscious, notably in 
its ambivalency, its typically sexual nature, and its close 
relation to infantile mental processes. 

The conclusion reached, therefore, is that salt is a 
typical symbol for seinen. But semen itself is ontogenetically 
not a primary concept, being a replacement of an earlier 
one concerning urine, and we have correspondingly been 
able to trace the roots of salt symbolism to an older source 
than the seminal one. There is every reason to think that 
the primitive mind equates the idea of salt, not only with 
that of semen, but also with the essential constituent of urine. 
The idea of salt in folk-lore and superstition characteristically 
represents the male, active, fertilising principle. 

An intuitive appreciation of the truth of this last 
sentence is afforded by the following panegyric paragraphs 
taken from the daily press, where they were headed: Man 
as 'Salt of the Earth', Science versus Suffragists. 

'Whilst the suffragists are loudly claiming equality 
with man — if not superiority — it has been left to scientists 
to establish that man is literally the "salt of the earth". 
Two famous French savants have just announced the result 
of a long series of investigations, which convinces them 
beyond all question of doubt that woman is unalterably 
man's inferior, because of the smaller percentage of Chloride 
of sodium in her blood. 

'In other words, the blood of the male is more salt 
than that of the female, and observations of animal life 
show that the more salt there is in the blood the higher 
the intelligence and general development. The indictment 
does not end there, for these savants declare that their 
combined physiological and psychological investigations have 
proved that woman is inferior to man in everything — 
intelligence, reason, and physical force. The facial angle 


of the female, they add, more closely resembles that of 
the higher animals than the male, while woman's senses 
are less keen than those of man and she feels pain less. 
( The scientific explanation is that the blood of the 
female is poorer in red blood corpuscles, and therefore 
relatively poorer in brine, which has been found io be the 
important factor in the development of the individual.' 

The fact that the customs and beliefs relating to salt 
are exactly parallel to those relating to sexual secretions 
and excretions, the complex and far-reaching way in which 
the salt-idea is intervvoven with matters of sex, particularly 
with potency and fertilisation, the universality of the beliefs 
in question, the faultless illumination that every detail of 
the customs and beliefs relating to salt receives as soon a& 
their symbolic signification is recognised, and the impossibility 
of adequately explaining them on any other basis, are con- 
siderations that render it exceedingly difficult to contest 
the hypothesis here sustained; in fact this can hardly be 
done except by ignoring the facts adduced above. The 
validity of the hypothesis rests on the grounds that it 
completely fulfils both canons of scientific reasoning: it 
enables one to resume disparate phenomena in a simple 
formula that renders them more comprehensible, and to 
predict the occurrence of other, previously unknown pheno- 
mena in a way that is susceptible of verification. 

The only opposing position that can seriously be main- 
tained is that, however important the association in question 
may have been in the past, it is no longer operative — except 
possibly among primitive peoples, so that the only agent 
responsible for the persistence of the superstition in modern 
times is the force of meaningless tradition. This raises 
an extremely important general problem — namely, how 


far ancient symbolisms are still operative in the minds of 
civilised people. The tendency of the average layman would 
be to regard such symbolisms as merely relics from a 
distant past, and to look lipon knovvledge concerning them 
as having no direct bearing on matters of present-day life. 
The importance they have, however, is far from being 
a simply antiquarian one. 1 Psycho-analytic investigation has 
shewn not only that symbolism plays a much more extensive 
part in mental functioning than was previously imagined, 
but also that there is a pronounced tendency for the same 
symbolisms to recur quite independently of the influence 
of other people. This is in entire accord vvith modern 
mythological and anthropological research, 2 for it is known 
that identical symbolisms occur in different parts of the 
World, and in different ages, in circumstances that preclude 
the possibility of their having been merely transmitted from 
one place to another. There appears to be a general 
tendency of the human mind to symbolise objects and 
interests of paramount and universal significance in forms 
that are psychologically the most suitable and available. 
That these stereotyped forms of symbolism are produced 

1 Roughly speaking it may be said that owing to the action of 
'repression' the sexual meaning of such symbolisms retrcats from view 
during the development of civilisation in much the same way as it does 
during the development of the individual. In both cases, however, the 
retreating from view means only a disappearance from consciousness, 
not from existence. 

2 It will be gathered from the whole tone of the present essay 
that the author attaches especial importance to the inter-relation of 
psycho-analytic and anthropological research. The an thropologist's material 
is rendered much more intelligible by psycho-analysis, and his views 
can there be submitted to veriüable tests with actual individual minds, 
while on the other band through this material the psycho-analytical 
conclusions receive extensive confirmation, correction, and amplification. 
The comparative study of both fields is mutually instructive, and much 
is to be expected in the future from the work of men such as Röheim 
who are equally trained in both fields. 


quite spontaneously is a matter capable of direct demon- 
stration. One finds, for instance, a country farmer uncon- 
sciously exhibiting in his dreams, in his mental reactions, 
and in his psychoneurotic Symptoms the identical symbolisms 
that played a part in the religions of Ancient India or 
Greece, and in a way so foreign to the conscious life of 
his environment as to exclude with certainty any source 
in either Suggestion or tradition. In my observations of the 
seminal symbolism of salt, for instance, with actual patients 
I have come across reactions indicating unconscious attitudes 
of mind exactly comparable to that implied in many of 
the antiquated practices detailed earlier in this essay. 

The most that these external influences can accomplish 
is to direct the unconscious process into a given form, 
but it cannot maintain this direction of interest unless the 
form of symbolism assumed becomes linked with a 
spontaneous interest of the individual. Thus, a person 
brought up in a society that took no interest in a given 
superstition would be less likely to develop the superstition 
himself than if brought up in a different society — though 
he might easily do so, nevertheless, especially if he were 
of the obsessional type of mind; but — and this is the 
important point — a person brought up in however super- 
stitious a society would not develop a given superstition 
unless it was of such a kind as to be capable of being 
associated to his personal mental complexes. This 
association is a purely individual one, and without it the 
superstitious belief fails to appeal; it need hardly be said 
that the process, particularly in civilised communities, is 
most often entirely unconscious. To put the matter more 
concretely: what is meant is that with every person who 
has made his own a superstitious practice regarding salt, 
who follows it from an inner motive, from a ' superstitious 
feeling' — even though he might consciously maintain that 


he did not believe in it — analysis would shew that the idea 
of salt was symbolising the idea of semen (or urine) in his 
unconscious mind, that this association was a personal one 
of his own. 

The reason why certain superstitions are so widely 
prevalent is because the ideas are such as to render easily 
possible the forging of associations between them and 
personal ideas of general interest and significance. The 
conditions, however, have their definite limitations : the 
forging of the associations must not be either too easy or 
too difficult. From this point of view one may venture to 
suggest that the general decline of superstition among 
educated classes is not entirely due — as is commonly 
thought — to the more enlightened intelligence of such 
classes, but is also in part due to their greater cultural 
I nhibition of symbolical thinking in general, and of sexual 
svmbolism in particular. 

A superstition such as that of salt-spilling is usually 
dismissed either as being too trivial to Warrant the dignity 
of an explanation, or eise with one that is obviously super- 
ficial and inadequate. Even in the opinions on the subject 
enunciated in psychological text-books the writer often 
gives the impression of having dispensed with an 
investigation sufficiently detailed to establish their validity. 
On the other hand, attentive consideration of any given 
superstition reveals how much we have to learn about the 
subject, and demonstrates that it is often, as in the present 
instance, connected with aspects of the human mind that 
are of fundamental importance. A psychology of religion, 
for example, is impossible without an understanding of 
superstition. Here, as elsewhere, Freud has shewn that a 
by-way in psychology may lead to country that yields an 
unexpectedly rieh harvest 



Every psycho-analyst must have come across patients 
amongst whose unconscious phantasies is contained the 
curious one in which the patient identifies himself vvith 
God. Such a megalomaniac phantasy would be barely 
comprehensible did we not know how closely the ideas of 
God and Father are associated, so much so that, from a 
purely psychological point of view, the former idea may 
be regarded as a magnified, idealised, and projected form 
of the latter. Identification of the seif with the loved object 
occurs to some extent in every affection, and is a regulär 
constituent of a boy's attitude towards his father; 
every boy imitates his father, pretends to himself 
that he is the father, and to a varying extent 
modeis himself on him. It is therefore only natural that a 
similar attitude may develop in regard to the more perfect 
Heavenly Father, and indeed this is in a certain sense 
directly inculcated in the religious teaching that one should 
strive to become as like the divine model as is possible 
(i. e. to imitate it), and in the belief that every man is a 
copy of God and contains the divine spirit within him. The 
transition from obedient Imitation to identification is often 

1 Published in the Internationale Zeitschrift für Psychoanalyse, 
191 3, Bd. I, S. 313. 


a rapid one, and in the unconscious the two terms are 
practically synonymous. The function of representing his 
king or State that is entrusted to an ambassador in a 
foreign country or to a governor in a foreign province has 
many a time been transgressed in history by opportunity 
allowing it to be exchanged for one of greater power; the 
Roman Empire, for instance, was perpetually exposed to 
this menace. In religion we see indications of the same 
process, , though of course the^ are less evident. To the 
common people the figures of Buddha, Mahomet, Peter, 
and Moses mean something more than mere representatives 
of God, and we find even minor prophets and preachers 
speaking in the name of God with an authority so 
astounding as to preclude the idea of its arising solely in 
learning; in other words one feels sure that their conscious 
attitude is generally the product of an unconscious phantasy 
in which they identify their personality with that of God. 
This phantasy is not at all rare, and possibly occurs 
here and there in all men; it is naturally far commoner 
with men than with women, where the corresponding one 
seems to be the idea of being the Mother of God. There 
is, however, a class of men with whom it is much stronger 
than is usual, so that it forms a constant and integral part 
of their unconscious. When such men become insane they 
are apt to express openly the delusion that they actually 
are God, and instances of the kind are to be met with in 
every asylum. In a state of sanity, that is to say when 
the feeling for reality and the normal inhibitions of 
consciousness are operative, the phantasy can express itself 
only after passage through this censorship, and there fore only 
in a modified, weakened, and indirect form. It is with 
these external manifestations that we are here concerned, 
and it will be the object of the present paper to indicate 
how from them the presence of what may be called a 


God-complex ' in the unconscious may be inferred. This 
unconscious complex, like any other important one, leaves 
permanent traces of its influence on conscious attitudes and 
reactions, and analysis of a number of individuals with whom 
it is strongly pronounced shows that the character traits * 
thus produced constitute a fairly typical picture, one clear 
enough to be applicable for diagnostic purposes. It is 
intelligible that they necessarily resemble those characteristic 
of the father-complex in jjJ^neral, being indeed simply a 
magnificätion of these; they form in fact a part of this 
broader group, but one sufficiently peculiar in itself to 
deserve to be singled out and distinguished from the rest 
of the group. 

The inductive generalisations arrived at on the basis 
of my observations do not altogether coincide with those 
that might have been expected from deductive consideration 
of the attributes popularly ascribed to God. A main 
distinction between them, for instance, is this: Whereas 
the aspect of Gcd as the Creator is perhaps the most 
impressive in the ordinary mind, as illustrated by the con- 
clusiveness with which the existence of God is commonly 
held to be settled by the question Svho eise could have 
created the world?' or by more abstract ratiocinations 
about the necessity for a 4 first cause', this aspect is far 
from being either the most prominent or the most typical 
to be represented amongst the phantasies belonging to a 
God-complex. The most striking and characteristic of these 

1 When George Meredith, in 'The Egoist', endowed the chiet 
figure of the book with certain peculiarly human attributes, his friends 
individually reproached him for having laid bare to the world their 
hidden weaknesses, each seeing in the novelist's description a mirror of 
his own heart. The character-traits pointed out in the present paper are 
so widely spread that I run the risk of laying myself open to a similar 
Charge, as indeed does everyone who attempts to contribute something 
to our stock of psycho-analytical knowledge. 


would seem to be the ones relating to effective power in 
the broadest sense (omnipotence), and most of the external 
manifestations of the complex can best be stated in terms 
of this. In my experience t he main foundation of the 
complex is to be d isco vered in a colos sal jiarcissism^ and 
this I regard as the most typical feature of the Personali- 
ties in question. All the character-traits presently to be 
described can either be directly derived from narcissism, 
or eise stand in the closest connection with it. 

Excessiye narcissism leads inevitably to an excessive 
admiration for and confidence in one's own powers, 
knowledge, and qualities, both physical and mental. Tvvo 
psycho-sexual tendencies are especially closely correlated 
with it, the auto-erotic and exhibitionistic, 1 two of the 
most primitive in the life of the individual, and \ve shall 
see that they play a highly important part in the genesis 
of the character-traits. With the second of these, the 
exhibitionistic, there is always associated its counterpart, 
the instinct of curiosity and knowledge, and this also pro- 
duces some of the end-results. From the intimate inter- 
association, therefore, of these impulses, the narcissistic, 
auto-erotic, exhibitionistic, and curiosity ones, it is compre- 
hensible why any sharp Separation of the character-traits 
from one another according to their origin is quite impossible, 
for many of them could be equally well described under 
any one of the four, being related to all. It will thus 
be convenient to describe them as a whole, and not 

One other general remark may be made before we 
proceed to the details, and that is to call attention to the 
characteristically negative way in w T hich these instincts are 
manifested in the Syndrome in question; for instance, 

1 See Stekel: 'Zur Psychologie des Exhibitionismus', Zentralblatt 
für Psychoanalyse, Jahrg. L, S. 494. 


excessive modesty is more often met with than pronounced 
vanity. The reason for this is that the unusual strength of 
the primitive tendencies has called forth an unusually 
strong series of reaction-formations, and it is these that, 
being more superficial in the mind and more in harmony 
with social feelings, manifest themselves most directly. In 
fact one can often infer the strength ol the underlying 
impulses only through noting how intense are the reactions 
they have evoked. 

We may begin the series by mentioning some mani- 
festations of narcissistic exhibitionism, i. e. the wish to 
display the ovvn person or a certain part of it, combined 
with the belief in the irresistible power of this. This power, 
which is the same as that ascribed to the tabu king 1 or 
to the sun and Hon symbols of mythology, is for either 
good or evil, creation or destruction, being thus typically 
ambivalent. In the instances under consideration the harmful 
element predominates, another interesting difference between 
this phantasy and the (modern) conception of God. 

These first manifestations, like those throughout the 
whole complex, are most typically reaction-products. Thus 
obvious self-conceit or vanity is not so frequent or so 
characteristic as an excessive self-modesty, which at times 
is so pronounced as to be truly a self-effacement. The man 
advances his strongest convictions in the most tentative 
manner possible, avoids the word ' I ' in both conversation 
and writing, and refuses to take any prominent or active part 
in the affairs of life. Already the exaggeratedness of this 
betrays it as being an affectation, not a primary character- 
tendency but a reaction to one, and this becomes still 
more evident when we observe the more extreme forms 
of the trait. These constitute what I consider to be the 
most characteristic manifestations of all — : namely, a tendency 

1 See Freud: Imago, 191 2, Bd. I, S. 306-15. 


to aloofness. The man is not the same as other mortals, 
he is something apart, and a certain distance must be 
preserved between him and them. He makes himself as 
inaccessible as possible, and surrounds his personality with 
a cloud of mystery. To begin with, he will not live near 
other people if he can avoid it. One such man told me 
with pride he lived in the last house of his town (a Metro- 
polis) and that he found this already too near to the 
throng, so he intended to move farther away. Such men 
naturally prefer to live in the country, and if their work 
prevents this they try to have a home outside the town 
to which they can retire, either every evening or every 
week-end. They may come in daily to their work and never 
mention their home address to their friends, using when 
necessary clubs and restaurants for whatever social purposes 
they need. They rarely invite friends to their home, where 
they reign in solitary grandeur. They lay the greatest stress 
on privacy in general, this being of course both a direct 
expression of auto-erotism (masturbation) and a reaction 
against repressed exhibitionism. There are thus two elements 
in the tendency in question, the wish not to be seen, and 
the wish to be distant or inaccessible; sometimes the accent 
is on the one, sometimes on the other. Both are well 
illustrated in the following phantasy that a patient once 
confessed to me: his darling wish was to own a castle in 
a distant mountain at the very extremity of the country 
(near the sea); as he drove up to it he was to sound a 
terrific hörn in his automobile so that the blast would 
reverberate along the hüls (thunders of Jehovah and Zeus, 
paternal flatus), and on hearing it the servants and retainers 
were to disappear to their Underground Chambers, leaving 
every thing prepared for him in the Castle; under no circum- 
stances were they ever to see him. Such men in actual 
life interpose all manner of difficulties in the way of being 



seen, even on business; appointments have to be made 
long beforehand or secretaries have to be interviewed, and 
when the time arrives they are either late or are c too 
busy* to come at all. How prominent this feature ot 
inaccessibility is with the nobility, kings, popes (!) and 
even important business men 1 is well known. A by-product 
of the desire for distance, one which has also other roots, 
is a keen interest in the matter of communication and in 
improved means for enabling them to annihilate distance; 
they invariably travel first-class or eise by automobile, thus 
keeping apart from the mob, insist on having the best 
System of telephones (which presents the advantage of 
allowing them to communicate without being seen), and so 
on. This trait is in striking contrast with the fact that such 
people do not willingly travel long distances, especially out 
of their own country. They always feel best at home, 
dislike going to the world and insist on making it come 
to them. 

The sense of this desire for inaccessibility is at once 
seen when we consider its extreme exaggerations, as met 
with in insanity. The late paranoiac King Lewis of Bavaria 
would seem to have shewn a typical case of this. It is 
said that he began by imitating Louis XIV (' Obligation of 
the name* — Stekel), and proceeded to identify himself 
formally with Le Roi Soleil. It is further related that at 
this stage he refused to interview people unless there was 
a screen between him and them, and that when he went 
out his guards had to warn people of his approach, to 
get them to hide in time and shelter themselves from his 

1 H. G. Wells, in his novel ' Tono-Bungay ', gives an amusing 
description of the difficulties in obtaining an audience with a successful 
financier. The applicants are sorted out in room after room by one 
secretary after the other, and only a very few are fortunate enough to 
penetrate to the Holy of Holies and come face to face with the great 
man himself. 


magnificent presence. Such behaviour can only indicate the 
belief that the rays emanating from this presence were 
charged with power of destruction, and the king's solicitude 
possibly covered repressed death-wishes. We have here a 
recrudescence of the old Egyptian, Persian and Grecian 
projection of the father as a sun-god, one that played an 
important part also in early Christianity. The significance 
of it in paranoia, as well as of the interesting and not 
rare ' aiglon ' phantasy, was pointed out by Freud in his 
Schreber analysis .* In insanity the patient may identify both 
his father and himself with the sun, as in the instance just 
mentioned, or eise only the former, as with a Paraphrenie 
patient of mine who spent the greater part of ten years 
defiantly staring at the sun. In more normal people 
such phantasies remain in the unconscious, and only a 
refined form of them can penetrate through to con- 
sciousness, such as the desire for aloofness. This desire, 
therefore, seems mainly to express, in an indirect way, a 
colossal narcissistic-exhibitionistic tendency, being based on 
the persons belief that his proximity is fraught with 
tremendous power on other people, and that the glory of 
his presence may dazzle or even blind them; as a precaution 
against such terrible consequences he withdraws to a 
distance whenever possible. A repressed tendency that also 
plays a part in determining this attitude is revealed by 
consideration of the fear of blinding others. This of course 
symbolises the fear, i. e. the repressed wish, that he may 
castrate them, and we shall see later that both this wish 
and the accompanying fear of being castrated are prominent 
characteristics of the group of complexes under consideration. 

The other trait of niystery, mentioned above in 
conjunetion with that of inaccessibility, may be regarded 
as the mental correlate of this; thus the broad tendency 

1 Freud: ' Nachtrag ', Jahrbuch der Psychoanalyse, Bd III, S. 588. 



of aloofness displays itself by the desires, on the physical 
side of being inaccessible, on the mental side of being 
mysterious. The person aims at wrapping himself in an im- 
penetrable cloud of mystery and privacy. Even the most 
trivial pieces of information about himself, those which 
an ordinary man sees no object in keeping to himself, are 
invested with a sense of high importance, and are parted 
with only under some pressure. Such a man is very loth 
to let his age be known, or to divulge his name or his 
profession to strangers, let alone to talk about his private 
affairs. I know of a man who has lived for eight years 
in a town in Western America without any of his friends 
there being able to find out whetherhe is married or not; 
anyone who knovvs something of the publicity of American 
private life will realise what a feat this is. Some little 
characteristics about writing are derivatives of the same 
tendency. A man of this kind writes unwillingly, particularly 
letters. 1 He dislikes to part with such expressions of his 
personality, and also finds the not-answering of letters of 
other people to be a convenient way of indicating his 
opinion of their importance. 2 In spite of a great interest 
in accurate language, of which we will speak later, he 
rarely expresses his thought clearly and directly. Very 
characteristic is a lengthy, involved and circuitous form of 
diction that at times becomes so turgid and obscure as to 
render it really impossible for the reader to discover what 
is meant. The more important is the topic (to the writer) 
the more difficulty does he have in parting with his valuable 

1 It need hardly be said that there are many other causes for 
this inhibition besides the ones here mentioned. 

2 Napoleon expounded this contemptuous attitude very wittily. He 
is said to have formed the rule, particularly during busy times, of never 
answering a letter until it was three months old. On being once 
criticised for this, he remarked taht it saved much trouble for he found 
that most letters answered themselves in this time. 


secret. The most important part is often not written at 
all, but instead is constantly hinted at with repeated 
promises that it will be disclosed on a further occasion. In 
striking contrast with this is the fact that the actual hand- 
writing is typically clear and distinct. With some such 
men it is the opposite, quite illegible, but with both kinds 
the person is inordinately proud of it, whether of the 
distinctness or of the obscurity. In any event he insists 
that it is peculiar to himself, apart, and unique. (In general 
nothing offends such a man as the Suggestion that he 
resembles someone eise, whether it be in handwriting, in 
personal appearance, in capacity, or in conduct.) The veil 
of mystery and obscurity that he casts over himself is 
naturally extended so as to cover all those pertaining to 
him. Thus he never spontaneously refers to his family, 
speaking of them reluctantly when any inquiries are made 
about them, and the same applies to any affairs in which 
he may have become concerned. That all this privacy refers 
not only to narcissistic self-importance, but also to auto- 
erotism 1 in general, and particularly to masturbation, is too well- 
known to need special emphasis here. The primary narcissistic 
tendency leaks through in the curious trait that when the 
reticence is abrogated, as during psycho-analysis or during a 
confidential chat with an intimate friend, the person takes 
the greatest pleasure in talking about himself in the füllest 
minuteness and is never weary of discussing and dissecting 
his own mental attributes. He is apt to be a successful 
lecturer and after-dinner Speaker, showing a fondness for this 
that contrasts with his other reactions to exhibitionism. 

1 The prominence ot this in the present group ot complexes 
explains the frequency with which the type under consideration presents 
the two eharacter-traits of an interest in philosophic discussions on the 
nature of truth (pragmatism, etc.), with a low personal Standard of 

honour in the matter of probity and truthfulness. 


The tendency to aloofness also manifests itself on the 
purely mental side quite directly. Such men are both 
unsociable and unsocial, in the wider sense. They adapt 
themselves with difficulty to any activity in common with 
others, whether it be of a political, scientific or business 
kind. They make bad Citizens as judged by the usual 
Standards; 1 however interested they may be in public 
affairs they take no part in them, and never even vote, 
such a plebeian function being beneath their dignity. Any 
influence they exert is done so quite indirectly, by 
means of stinjulating more active admirers. Their ideal 
is to be 'the man behind the throne,' directing affairs 
from above while being invisible to the crowd. To follow, 
to participate, or even to lead, in a general movement, 
whether social or scientific, is repugnant to them, and they 
use every effort to maintain a policy of magnificent isolation. 
In this they may achieve, as Nietzsche did, true grandeur, 
but more often they present merely a churlish egotism. 

As is to be expected, such a strong exhibitionistic 
tendency as that indicated by the traits just mentioned 
must have a counterpart in a strongly developed comple- 
mentary instinct — namely, the pleasure in visual curiosity 
( c scoptolagnia ')> though there are fewer characteristic 
manifestations of these in the Syndrome. They differ from 
the previous ones in being more often of direct origin, 
and not reaction-formations. There is usually present a 
quite womanish curiosity about trivial personalities, gossip 
and the like, though generally this is conceale<d and is 
betrayed only on occasion. More often a higher form of 
Sublimation occurs, and this typically takes the form of 
tnter est in psyckology. If the person in question is endowed 

1 Very characteristic is the combination of bad citzenship in a 
practical sense with a keen theoretical interest in social reform, which 
will be spoken of later. 


with a natural intuition for divining the minds of others, 
is a judge of human nature, he will make use of this 
in his profession whatever it may be; if he is not so 
endowed he tends to become a professional psychologist 
or psychiatrist, or at least to take a considerable abstract 
interest in the subject. This desire to compensate a natural 
defect furnishes no doubt one of the explanations for the 
notorious circumstance that professional psychologists so, 
often display a striking ignorance of the human mind. It 
also accounts for their constant endeavour to remedy their 
defiency by the invention of 'objective' methods of studying 
the mind that are to make them independent of intuition, 
and their antagonism to methods, such as psycho- 
analysis, which deliberately cultivate this; the flood of 
curves and statistics that threatens to suffocate the science 
of psychology bears witness to the needs of such men. 
To revert to our typical man: he takes a particular 
interest in any methods that promise a ' short-cut ' to the 
knowledge of other people's minds, and is apt to apply 
such methods as the Binet-Simon scale, the psycho- 
galvanic phenomenon, word-association reactions, or gra- 
phology in a mechanical and literal manner, always hoping 
to find one that will give automatic results. The more 
unusual the method the more it attracts him, giving him 
the feeling of possessing a key that is accessible only to 
the elect. For this reason he is apt to display great 
interest in the various forms of thought-reading, cheiro- 
mancy, divination, and even astrology, as well as in occult- 
ism and mysticism in all their branches. This topic connects 
itself with that of religion on the one hand, and the 
various manifestations of omniscience on the other, both 
of which will presently be discussed. 

Certain less direct products of narcissistic exhibitionism 
may be grouped under the heading of omnipotence phantasies. 


These may extend over every field where power can be 
exhibited, so that it becomes impossible to discuss them 
in detail; they are particularly apt to apply to unusual ones, 
therefore claiming powers possessed by the few. Perhaps 
the commonest is that relating to money, a matter closely 
connected, in fact and fancy, with the idea of power. The 
person imagines himself a multi-millionaire, and revels in the 
thought of what he would do with all the power then at his 
disposal. This phantasy is usually associated with a pretended 
contempt for money in real life, and sometimes with an actual 
generosity and freedom in the use of it; the amount actually 
possessed is so infinitesimal in comparison with what he 
possesses in his imagination that it is too small to treasure. 

The most char acter istic sub-group in the present con- 
nection, however, are those relating to omniscience. This 
may be regarded as simply a form of omnipotence, for 
whoever can do everything can also know everything. The 
passage from the one to the other is clearly seen in the 
case of foretelling; to know beforehand when something is 
going to happen is in itself a kind of control, merely a 
weakened form of actually bringing the thing about, and 
the transition between a deity and a prophet is historically 
often a very gradual one (!). 

One of the most distressing character-traits of the type 
undfcr consideration is the attitude of disinclination towards 
the acceptance of new knowledge. This follows quite logically 
from the idea of omniscience, for anyone who already 
knows everything naturally cannot be taught anything new; 
still less can he admit that he has ever made a mistake 
in his knowledge. We touch here on a general human 
tendency, one of which the psycho-analytical movement has 
already had much practical experience, but it is so pro- 
nounced in the present character that it cannot be passed 
over without a few words being devoted to it. In the first 


place, men with this type of character talk even more than 
other men about their capacity to assimilate new ideas, 
and are sometimes lavish in their abstract admiration for 
the new. But when put to the test of being confronted 
with a new idea that doesn't proceed from themselves, 
they offer an uncompromising resistance to it. This follows 
on the usual well-known lines, being merely exaggerated 
in intensity. The most interesting manifestations are the 
modes of acceptance, when this does occur. There are 
two typical forms of these. The first is to modify the new 
idea, re-phrase it in their own terms, and then give it out 
as entirely their own; the differences between their des- 
cription and that given by the discoverer of the new idea 
they naturally maintain to be of vital importance. When 
the modifications made are considerable they are always 
of the nature of a weakening of the original idea, and in 
this case the author of them usually adheres to the new 
conclusion. Sometimes the resistance to the new idea is 
indicated by the modifications being simply changes in 
nomenclature, or even in spelling (!), and then later 
reactions of the person show that he has never seriously 
accepted the new idea, so that his old repugnance to it 
will sooner or later be again evident. The second mode, 
closely allied to the first and often combined with it, is 
to devalue the new idea by describing it in such a way 
as to lay all the stress on the links between it and older 
ones, thus putting into the background whatever is essenti- 
ally new in it, and then claiming that they had always 
been familiär with it. 1 

1 A beautiful instance of this Performance occurred recently. I 
had written a paper on Freud's theory of the neuroses, dealing prin- 
cipally, of course, with the importance of infantile conflicts, repressed 
sexual perversions, etc. A very distorted abstract of it appeared in a 
French Journal, finishing with the assurance that 'since Janet's works 
all these ideas had long been current in France.' 


Of especial importance is the subject's attitude towards 
ante. The idea of time and its passage is so intimately 
bound up with such fundamental matters as old age and 
death, potency, ambitions, hopes, in short with the essence 
of life itself, that it is necessarily of the greatest importance 
to anyone who claims omnipotence and omniscience. Like 
all lesser things it must therefore be under his control, 
and this belief is revealed in a number of little traits and 
reactions. His own time is naturally the correct one, there- 
fore his watch is always right and any Suggestion to the 
contrary is not merely repudiated, but resented; this con- 
fidence is sometimes maintained in the face of the strengest 
evidence against it. His time is also exceedingly valuable 
in comparison with that of others, so that, quite consistently, 
he is usually unpunctual at an appointment, but is most 
impatient when others keep him waiting; time in general 
belonging to his domain, it is for him to dispose of, not 
for others. An exception is provided by those members 
of the group that adopt the definition of punctuality as 
1 la politesse des rois, ' and who find pleasure in demon- 
strating their perfect control over time by being absolutely 
exact (one thinks of Kant's daily four o'clock walk). 

The attitude towards past time chiefly concerns their 
personal memory. This they regard, like their watch, as 
infallible, and they will stoutly defend the accuracy of it 
to the last lengths; in support of this they cultivate with 
attention an exactitude in such things as quotations, 
dates, etc., which can easily be checked. In some cases 
they are proud of their excellent memory, but more typic- 
ally they regard it as something obvious and are annoyed 
when any of their success is attributed to it. 

The capacity to foretell demonstrates the power over 
future time, and this occupies a great deal of their interest. 
Tp speculate about the future of an acquaintance, an 


enterprise, a nation, or even the whole human race, is a 
matter of quite personal concern, and they freely give vent 
to all manner of predictions, most often of a sinfster kind. 
One of the most characteristic of all the present series of 
character-traits is the persona firm belief in his ability to 
foretell the weather, and particularly rain or thunder. The 
vagaries of weather have always played a prominent part 
in the phantasy of mankind, not only on account of their 
obvious importance for his welfare, but because the utter 
variability of them seemed to point directly to the activity 
of supernatural beings, whether good or evil. Christian 
congregations that would consider it unreasonable to expect 
the Deity to improve the landscape at their request, or 
eren to change the temperature, still pray earnestly for 
modifications of the weather, and almost the last belief 
about witches to die out was that they were responsible 
for the production of inclement weather. The weather is 
the part of nature that most flagrantly defies both the 
prescience and the control of modern science, rivalling in 
this respect the human mind itself; one may say that the 
chief evidences of spontaneity and free will to be found 
in the universe occur in these two spheres, so that it is 
little wonder that they are equally regarded as conspicuous 
exceptions to the natural laws of determinism and order 
and as manifestations of an external agency. In addition 
to all this, it is easy to show that the various elements 
have always possessed considerable symbolic significance, 
rain, wind, and thunder in particular being taken to 
represent grand sexual-excremental Performances; a thunder- 
storm is in this connection of especial importance, because 
it comprises all of the three. In view of these considerations 
it is not surprising that the present type should take the 
greatest interest in the subject of the weather, and should 
arrogate to himself special powers of prediction in regard 


to it. It is practically pathognomonic of the God-complex 
when a man maintains that he can invariably foretell a 
thunderst&rm, relying on signs and methods that cannot 
be explained to anyone eise, and regards as 'false prophets' 
all those who use other ones. 

Such men also take a great interest in the subject 
of language, one which bears a symbolic relation to the 
last-mentioned. They pose as authorities on literary style, 
and often are so, claiming a 'mastery' of their mother- 
tongue. The style they affect is usually good, exact but 
not pedantic, but tends to be involved and even obscure; 
lucidity is not its virtue, and they find it difficult to 
express clearly what they have to say. With the thorough 
knowledge of their own tongue goes an aversion to foreign 
ones, which they often refuse to learn; their own is the 
tongue, the only one worthy to be noticed. They are fond 
of talking, especially in monologue, and usually excel in 
lecturing, speech-making, and conversation. 

Two character-traits that bear an even more direct 
relation to narcissism are those concerning the attitude 
towards advice and judgement. They are very unwilling to 
give advice } the responsibility being too great. Any advice 
that they gave would be so precious and important that 
not to follow it would surely be disastrous. Rather than 
expöse their friends to this risk they prefer to withhold 
their advice, another instance of apparent altruism. It goes 
without saying that any advice tendered to them by others 
is contemptuously rejected as worthless. 

The attitude towards judging is also characteristic. It is 
a double one, consisting of an alternation of extreme tolerance 
and extreme intolerance. The question of which of the two 
is shown seems to depend on whether the infringement to be 
judged is of their own will or merely of that of other people. 
In the former case no punishment is too harsh for the 


offender; I have heard such men describe, just like a child, 
how they would execute various people who disobeyed 
them, tradesmen who were behind time, and the like. In the 
second case, on the other hand, they are always in favour 
of the greatest leniency and broad-minded tolerance. They 
thus advocate the abolition of capital punishment, the 
more humane and understanding treating of criminals, and 
so on. 

The subject of religion is usually one of the greatest 
interest to such men, both from the theological and 
historical side and from the psychological; this sometimes 
degenerates into an interest in mysticism. As a rule they 
are atheists, and naturally so because they cannot suffer 
the existence of any other God. 

We may now briefly mention a few character traits 
that, though pronounced, are less distinctive, inasmuch as 
they are of such general occurrence; they only belong here 
because they are almost always prominent features of the 
present type. One of these is an exaggerated desire to be 
loved. This is rarely shewn directly, or at most by a desire 
for praise and admiration rather than for love. It is 
commonly replaced by its opposite, an apparent indifference 
to and independence of the opinion of others, and the 
repressed need often betrays itself in such ways as a 
theoretical interest in the action of crowd Suggestion, intense 
belief in the importance of public opinion, pliant yielding 
to Convention in deeds in spite of a rejection of this 
in words. 

Like all other human beings, they are convinced in 
their unconscious of their own immortality , whether this 
be ensured through direct continuity or through an eternal 
series of rebirths; they have thus neither beginning nor 
end. The belief in their creative power, as was mentioned 
above, is more subordinate, at all events in comparison 


with other ones, than might have been expected, yet it 
is often pronounced enough. The belief in self-creation, 
and rebirth phantasies, are practically constant features. It 
is further revealed in such phantasies as visions of a vastly 
improved or altogether ideal world, naturally created by 
the person in question, or even of the birth of a new 
planet where everything is ' remoulded nearer to the heart's 
desire'; 1 far-reaching schemes of social reform also belong 
here. In general there is in such men a vein of romantic 
idealism, often covered by a show of either materialism 
or realism. 

The idea of caslration always plays with our type a 
part of quite special importance, both in the form of 
castration-wishes against the father (authorities) and of fear 
of castration (talion) on the part of the younger generation. 
The latter is as a rule the more pronounced of the two, 
and naturally leads to a fear and jealousy of younger 
rivals, this being in some cases remarkably intense. Beyond 
the constancy with which a strong castration-complex is 
present there is nothing characteristic about its numerous 
manifestations in this type, so that I will refrain from 
mentioning these, particularly as they are fairly well known. 
The resentment with which these men observe the growing 
prominence of younger rivals forms a curious contrast to 
another character-trait, namely their desire to protect. They 
are fond of helping, of acting as patron or guardian, and 
so on. All this, however, happens only under the strict 
condition that the person to be protected acknowledges 
his helpless position and appeals to them as the weak to 
the strong; such an appeal they often find irresistible. 

1 English readers will at once think here of the numerous works 
of H. G. Wells that excellently illustrate this phantasy; he does not 
appear, however, to present any other characteristics of our type, at 
least not in a striking degree. 


The reader will probably have realised the difficulty 
I have experienced in grouping such multiple traits and 
will therefore allow me to repeat them now in a more 
concise fashion. Thus, the type in question is characterised 
by a desire for aloofness, inaccessibility, and mysteriousness, 
often also by a modesty and self-effacement. They are 
happiest in their cwn home, in privacy and seclusion, and 
like to withdraw to a distance. They Surround themselves 
and their opinions with a cloud of mystery, exert only an 
indirect influence on external affairs, never join in any 
common action, and are generally unsocial. They take 
great interest in psychology, particularly in the so-called 
objective methods of mind-study that are eclectic and 
which dispense with the necessity for intuition. Phantasies 
of power are common, especially the idea of possessing 
great wealth. They believe themselves to be omniscient, 
and tend to reject all new knowledge. The attitude towards 
time and towards the foretelling of weather, particularly 
thunderstorms, is highly characteristic. The subjects of 
language and religion greatly interest them, and they have 
an ambivalent attitude towards those of giving advice and 
of judging (e. g. punishment). Constant, butless characteristic, 
attributes are the desire for appreciation, the wish to 
protect the weak, the belief in their own immortality, the 
fondness for creative schemes, e. g. for social reform, and 
above all, a pronounced castration-complex. 

An obvious consideration, and one important not to 
forget, is the fact that all Gods have not the same attri- 
butes— although there is much that is common to them 
all — so that the God-type will vary according to the par- 
ticular God with whom the person indentifies himself. By 
far the most important of these variations is that depending 
on the idea of the Son of God, therefore in Europe of 
Christ. This gives a special stamp to the type in question. 


which must shortly be indicated. The three chief charac- 
teristics are: revolution against the father, saving phanta- 
sies, and masochism, or in other words, an Oedipus Situ- 
ation in which the hero-son is a suffering saviour. With 
this type the mother plays a part of quite special impor- 
tance, and her influence is often shown in the particular 
attributes described by Freud in his harlot-saving type. 1 
Saving phantasies, where what is to be saved from the 
'wicked father ' varies from a given person (e. g. Shelley's 
first wife) to the whole of mankind (democratic reform, 
etc.), are thus extremely common here. The salvation is 
often to be effected at the expense of a terrific self-sacrifice, 
where the masochistic tendencies come to füll satisfaction. 
These also reveal themselves in the trait of extreme humi- 
lity and altruism, especially striking in men who originally 
were unusually virile and aggressive, e. g. St. Francis oi 
Assisi. Second only to the importance of the mother who 
has to be rescued is that of the oppressive father. There 
is thus constantly present an intolerance of authority of 
any kind, and any person invested with this, or even only 
with seniority or pre-eminence, may be viewed in the 
light of this complex so that his figure is artificially dis- 
torted into the imago of the wicked father. With this 
Christ type there invariably goes also an anti-semitic ten- 
dency, the two religions being contrasted and the old 
Hebraic Jehovah being replaced by the young Christ. The 
castration-complex is if possible even more pronounced in 
this variety than in the main type described above. 

It is interesting to see that the character evolved 
through the influence of the God-complex in general tends 
to belong to one or the other of two extreme kinds. On 
the one hand, if the complex is guided and controlled by 

1 Freud: 'Beiträge zur Psychologie des Liebeslebens', I, Jahr- 
buch der Psychoanalyse, Bd. II, S. 389. 


valuable higher factors, it may give us a man who is truly 
God-like in his grandeur and sublimity; Nietzsche and Shelley 
are perhaps good instances of this. On the other hand — 
what unfortunately we see more commonly, particularly in 
patients during analysis — we find characters that are 
highly unsatisfactory, with exaggerated self-conceit, difficulty 
in adapting themselves to life in common with ordinary 
men, and therefore of no great use for social purposes. 
Probably this can be correlated with the unconscious 
basis of the complex, the enormous narcissism and exhib - 
itionism . The last named instinct is of all the sexual 
components the one most closely related to the social 
instincts, being in a sense a definition of the individual's 
attitude towards his fellow man, and one can see a similar 
ambivalence in the value of its products; on the one 
side, by giving a greater self-confidence and self-estimation, 
and a powerful motive to achieve a good standing in the 
estimation of others, it supplies a driving force that greatly 
contributes towards successfully Coming forward in life, 
while on the other side when either exaggerated or not 
properly directed it gives rise to difficulties in social 
adjustment through a false sense of values. 

In conclusion we may refer to a few considerations, 
which though evident have to be mentioned so as to avoid 
the possibility of misunderstanding. In the first place, the 
picture sketched above is a composite one, just like any 
other clinical picture. The individual details are from 
separate studies and artificially fused, just as a text-book 
description of typhoid fever is. I have never seen anyone 
who presented all the attributes mentioned above, and it 
is verypossible that such people do not existj at all events 
in every case some of the attributes are more prominent 
than others. Then I would further emphasise the fact that 
the present description is quite tentative, necessarily so 



because it is based on only one person's experience of 
about a dozen analyses bearing on the problem, 1 in other 
words on evidence that is certainly insufficient to establish 
a sharply drawn Syndrome. I am convinced that there is such 
a thing as a God-complex, and that some of the attributes 
above mentioned belong to it, but am equally convinced that 
the present account of it needs modification, and probably 
both expansion in some directions and limiting in others. The 
present paper is thus published mainly as an incentive to 
the further investigation of an interesting series of 

* Experience of many more cases during the ten years since this 
paper was written has only confirmed the main outlines here sketched 
so that no alterations have been made in it. 




It has been a problem to many generations of art 
students to explain why Andrea del Sarto, in spite of his 
stupendous gifts in every branch of painting, should have 
failed to reach the front rank as an artist. The more care- 
fully his work is analysed in detail the more wonder does 
it wring from the spectator, and especially from the con- 
noisseur. His drawing was unrivalled in its flawlessness, and 
defies all criticism; he was the finest colourist of his day, 
and in this respect has never been excelled except by a 
few of the Venetian school; of chiaroscuro he was an 
absolute master; his composition was well-nigh perfect in 
its harmony; his frescoes remain to-day to show us the 
highest that could be reached in this domain; and his tech- 
nical skill was applied with a sensitiveness of tact, a sureness 
of judgement, and an excellence of good taste that are 
beyond re^roach. It is little wonder, therefore, that, even 
by a critical generation, he was given the title of ' il pittore 
senza errori\ Added to these accomplishments must be 
reckoned that he lived in Florence, a contemporary of 
Raphael and Michel Angelo, at the time when the 
Renaissance art reached its very acme, before there was 

1 Published in Imago, 191 3, Bd. H, S. 468. 

227 15« 


yet any serious sign of the decadence that was soon to 
set in, and when the very air was thrilling with inspiration. 
Yet, in spite of all this, we are confronted with the startling 
fact that Andrea never attained true greatness in his art, that 
there is something essentially lacking in his work which robs 
it of any claim to rank with that of the greatest masters. 
A few quotations from expert judgements will describe 
both Andrea's excellences and his defects far better than 
I can pretend to do. Sir Henry Layard considers his earli- 
est remaining work (in the Annunziata), done at the age 
of twenty-two, to be ^an instance of the highest level, in 
point of execution, attained by fresco', 1 and Leader Scott 
also says of it 'this might well be classed as on the 
highest level ever reached in fresco.' 2 Guinness writes of 
him: c He interprets the secrets of natnre with a force so 
completely victorious over every difficulty of technique that 
the effort appears to be to him but as child's-play, and 
his utterances are but a further manifestation of her intimate 
mysteries. . . . The works of men like Buonarotti and Leon- 
ardo betray a hundred subtleties of invention, and astonish 
with a sense of difficulties aimed at and overcome. But 
Andrea knew none of these complexities ; difficulties of 
technique did not exist for him. . . . The supreme gift which 
had early gained for him the title senza errori, and the 
native simplicity of his character, left him without desire 
to startle; he aimed at nothing beyond the reach of his 
facile brush, and the longer the spectator beholds his works 
the deeper grows his admiration before their absorbing 
unity and ensemble. . . . It is this quality of natural simpli- 
city and lack of exaggeration which makes del Sarto to 
so large a degree the artist who appeals to artists rather 

* Layard in the 5th edition ot Kugler's Handbook of Painting, 
1887, Part II, p. 457. 

2 Leader Scott: Andrea del Sarto, 1881, p. 92. 


than to the ordinary public, who do not widerstand the 
noble simplicity of his work, and his stupendous powers 
of technique.' 1 Of Andrea's masterpiece, the Madonna di 
San Francesco, he says, 'the beauty of this picture is 
beyond praise', and of the Scalzi frescoes that l their 
technique reveals the almost superhuman force of the artist, 
who — within the limitations of chiaroscuro — has here 
proved himself a complete master of colour. . . . They have 
been equalled by no other artist in Italy.' 2 Of the famous 
Last Supper picture he writes, 'No other word but brilliant 
will express the jewel-like sense of colour and noble drawing 
which strike the eye on entering the refectory of the Salvi 
convent. It was the beauty of this marvellous creation 
which saved it from destruction during the siege of Flor- 
ence, when the soldiers who would have razed the convent 
to the ground stopped spell-bound as they burst into the 
refectory and were confronted by the noble drama which 
the artist's brush had so vividly portrayed.' 3 Bottari speaks 
of Andrea's ' Tabernacolo' as 4 a divine picture, one of 
the most beautiful works which ever issued from the hand 
of man', 4 and similar panegyrics are common enough. A 
sufficiently high one is contained in Michel Angelo's remark 
to Raphael: 

Friend, there's a certain sorry little scrub 
Goes up and down öur Florence, none cares how, 
Who, were he set to plan and execute 

1 Guinness: Andrea del Sarto, 1899, pp. v, 57, 58. 

2 Guinness : op. cit, pp. 21, 44, 45. 

3 Guinness : op cit., p. 42. Vasari's account of this episode (Vol. 
III, p. 224)- is that the picture was saved by the officer in command. 
The more florid version seeras to have originated with Varchi (Storie 
florentine, Vol. III, p. 186). 

4 Quoted by Guinness: op. cit, p. 32. 


As you are, pricked on by your popes and kings, 
Would bring the sweat into that brow of yours I 1 

Andrea' s defects are most pithily summed up in 
Reumont's phrase, 'Greatness is lacking in his works'. 2 
He seems to have had no inner vision, no inspiration, no 
ideal, and his pictures fail to move the observer to any- 
thing more than a sense of admiration at their abstract 
beauty and perfection; he leaves one cold at heart, and 
never conveys any feeling of a something beyond that has 
been mysteriously revealed. Reumont writes for instance, 
( Del Sarto's Madonnas are expressive of a fresh, blooming, 
often robust nature, but they do not wear the halo of the 
spiritual, of the inexpressible, of the yearning towards 
heaven, with which we love to see the head of the Virgin 
encircled, and without which she loses her finest charm. ,3 
Guinness puts it more apologetically thus: 'Butif the soul 
of Andrea )ay in things of sense, and he missed the vision 
of ideal beauty, the secret of visible beauty was truly his, 
and was rendered by him with consummate skill. . . . He 
courted no rivalry, he employed no tricks, he feared no 
ünputations of want of originality, but went directly to his 
goal, attaining, as was, alas, inevitable with his want of 
poetic idealism, the fault of faultlessness. In the Birth of 
St. John the skilled hand of the artist has grown almost 
mechanical in its easej the grand attitude, the noble 
drapery, the perfect equipoise of composition well-nigh 

1 This is the rendering given by Browning in his poem on 
Andrea. The original, of which it is a free translation, may be found 
in Bocchi's Bellezze di Firenze. It may be of interest in this connection 
to recall that Andrea once copied a picture of Raphael's (Leo X) for 
Ottaviano di Medici so skilfully as completely to deceive Giulio Romano, 
who had helped Raphael paint the picture. 

2 Reumont: Andrea del Sarto, 1835, S.xv. 
8 Reumont: op. cit, S. 75. 


oppress by their very perfection; and this last great fresco 
of the Scalzo series betrays the weakness as well as the 
strength of Del Sarto.' 1 Vasari sums him 11p as follows: 
( In him art and nature combined to show all that may be 
done in painting, when design, colouring, and invention 
unite in one and the same person. Had this master 
possessed a somewhat bolder and more elevated mind, 
had he been as much distinguished for higher qualifications 
as he was for genius and depth of judgment in the art 
he practised, he would beyond all doubt have been without 
an equal. But there was a certain timidity of mind, a sort 
of diffidence and want of force in his nature, which rendered 
it impossible that those evidences of ardour and animation, 
which are proper to the more exalted character, should 
ever appear in him; nor did he at any time display one 
particle of that elevation which, could it but have been 
added to the advantages wherewith he was endowed, would 
have rendered him a truly divine painter: wherefore the 
works of Andrea are wanting in those Ornaments of 
grandeur, richness, and force, which appear so conspicuously 
in those of many other masters.' 2 Browning, in his ( Andrea 
del Sarto' — a poem that contains a brilliant descriptive 
analysis of the painter and which betrays a wealth of 
psychological insight 3 — makes him realise both his capacity 
and his deficiency: 

I can do with my pencil what I know, 
What I see, what at bottom of my heart 
I wish for, if I ever wish so deep — 
Do easily, too — when I say, perfectly, 

1 Guinness; pp. 44, 57, 

2 Vai ari : Lives of the Most Eminent Painters, English Translation, 
185 1, Vol. III, pp. 180, 181. 

3 The reason why this is so good is because it contains a 
considerable piece of unconscious self-analysis on the poet's part. 

I do not boast, perhaps: . . . 

• ♦ • • • • 

There burns a truer light of God in them, 1 
In their vexed, beating, stuffed and stopped-up brain, 
Heart, or whate'er eise, than goes on to prompt 
This low-pulsed, forthright craftsman's hand of mine. 
Their works drop groundward, but themselves, I know, 
Reach many a time a heaven that's shut to me, 
Enter and take their place there sure enough, 
Though they come back and cannot teil the world. 
My works are nearer heaven, but I sit here. 

• ••••• 

Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, 
Or what's a heaven for? All is silver-grey 
Placid and perfect with my art: the worse! 

The prominent characteristics, therefore, of Andrea's 
work are his perfection of technique, his astounding facility, 2 
his unforced sincerity and natural simpicity; with these go 
a lack of inspiration, an absence of 4 soul' or of deep 
emotion, an incapacity to express either a great poetical 
or religious idea, or an ideal thought of any kind. There 
have been two explanations given of this striking antinomy, 
and they are usually held, no doubt with right, to be 
mutually complementary rather than contradictory. The one 
invokes an inborn lack of that indefinable quality called 
genius, the other the unfortunate influence of the painter's 
wife. The first of these will not be entered upon here, 
but it is our intention to consider the second from the 
point of view of psycho-analysis, and to see whether more 
light can in this way be thrown upon it. 

1 i. e. his rivals. 

2 He never painted shades one above the other, like other painters ; 
all was finished from the first laying on, and with an unerring accuracy 
and sureness of touch. 


The essential facts of Andrea's life that bear on our 
problem are as follows. The exact date of his birth is 
disputed, but was certainly in the July of either i486 or 
1488, more probably the latter. He was the third of six 
children, having two older brothers. He became acquainted 
with Lucrezia del Fede, when she was the wife of another 
man, about 151 1 or 1512, 1 and married her, after her 
husband's death, in 15 13. He was thoroughly infatuated 
with her, sacrificed both his artistic prospects and the 
esteem of his friends in order to marry her, and, at her 
bidding, deserted his parents, whom he had previously 
supported; this infatuation lasted, apparently without the 
slightest intermission or change, until the end of his life. 
His wife was unquestionably a beautiful and attractive 
woman, but the character generally given her is decidedly 
the reverse of favourable. She is said to have been 
haughty, exacting, vain, entirely selfish, extravagant, and 
domineering. It is thus intelligible that the whole Situation 
brought about an estrangement between Andrea and his 
friends, who regarded his conduct as that of a blind fool. 
Vasari writes on this point : ' When the news became known 
in Florence the affection and respect with which his friends 
had always regarded Andrea changed into disapproval and 
contempt. . . . But he destroyed his own peace as well as 
estranged his friends by this act, seeing that he soon 
became jealous, and found that he had besides fallen into 
the hands of an artful woman, who made him do as she 
pleased in all things. He abandoned his own poor father 
and mother, for example, and adopted the father and 
sisters of his wife in their stead; insomuch that all who 
knew the facts mourned over him, and he soon began to be 
as much avoided as he had previously been sought after. 

1 His first known portrait of her is to be found in the Nativity 
fresco Qf the Annunziata, painted at some time between 1511 and 15 14. 


His disciples still remained with him, it is true, in the 
hope of learning something useful, yet there was not one of 
them, great or small, who was not maltreated by his wife, 
both by evil words and despiteful actions: none could 
escape her blows, but although Andrea lived in the midst 
of all that torment, he yet accounted it a high pleasure.' 1 
Andrea was badly paid for his work, probably because 
he had no rieh patron; for the Annunziata frescoes, for 
example, he got only 70 lire each. Some five years after 
his marriage he was asked by King Francis to come to 
the French court, an invitation which he aeeepted with 
alacrity; he was absent from Florence altogether from May 
the 25 dl, 15 18 to October the I7th, 15 19. In Fontainebleau 
he was reeeived with every mark of esteem, was highly 
honoured by the King and his court, and was richly paid 
for his work; he is said to have painted over fifty pictures 
while in France — though doubtless some of these were by 
his pupil Squazzella whom he took with him — and for one 
alone he reeeived 2,100 lire. The contrast between his 
previous sordid existence and this life of opulence and 
admiration must have seemed to him nothing less than 
magical. Pressure on the part of his wife, however, who 
was probably envious of his lot and also desirous of 
resuming her sway over him, led him to return to Florence. 
According to Vasari, 'She wrote with bitter complaints to 
Andrea, declaring that she never ceased to weep, and was 
in perpetual affliction at his absence; dressing all this up 
with sweet words, well calculated to move the heart of 
the luckless man, who loved her but too well, she drove 

1 Vasari: op. cit, p. 194. Vasari should speak with some authority 
on this matter, for he was one of the pupils in question. He is unfortunately 
an unsafe author to rely on, being given both to distortion and con- 
fabulation, but the main points of the present story are to be confirmed from 
pther sources, e. g. from Andrea' s own portraits of himself and his wife. 


the poor soul half out of his wits; above all, when he 
read her assurance that if he did not return speedily, he 
would certainly find her dead. Moved by all this, he resolved 
to resume his chain, and preferred a life of wretchedness 
with her to the ease around him, and to all the glory 
which his art must have secured to him.' 1 He promised 
the King faithfully that he would soon return to France, 
hoping to induce his wife to come back with him, but 
once home he was kept prisoner by his wife, who refused 
to go to France; her principal motive in this refusal is 
said to have been her reluctance to leave her father, a 
part which throws some light on her general hysterical 
disposition. Andrea thus flung away his brilliant prospects, 
resumed his old life of misery and poverty, and became 
more despised than ever for his conduct; it is related 
that for some time he was afraid to shew himself in 
the streets of Florence on account of the sneering 
remarks he overheard. 2 He made attempts a little later 
to regain King Francis' favour, and sent him several 
pictures, but the King never forgave him or took any 
further notice of him. 

Of the rest of Andrea's life there is not much to be 
told. He spent it in relative obscurity and poverty; for 
instance, for the two finest of the Scalzo frescoes, the 
Carita and Verita, he was paid twenty lire (in 1520), and 
for his Entombment picture he received merely a bunch 
of candles, the price also of his Madonna of Zanobi Bracci. 

1 Vasari: op. cit, p. 206. King Francis is said to have entrusted 
him with large sums of money to buy pictures for him in Florence, but 
which Andrea squandered on his wife. This widely accepted story, how- 
ever, seems to have been one of Vasari's inventions, for recent 
investigation of the King's accounts, which were kept with scrupulous 
exactitude, shows that he gave Andrea no money except for the work 
he had done. (See Guinness: op. cit., pp. 28, 29.) 

2 Reumont: op. cit, S. 113. 


His wife was his principal model, and so obsessed was he 
with her appearance that her features recur again and 
again in all his female types. He lived with his wife, her 
daughter, and her sister, thus in an altogether feminine 
atmosphere, and died in January 1531 (at the age of 42) 
of the plague, deserted by his wife who feared to 
expose herseif to the infection. The quality of his work, 
with certain exceptions, steadily deteriorated during these 
twelve years, although they naturally betray a greater 
ripeness and self-confidence; according to Guinness, 'for 
the most part his best works were painted before he was 
thirty-two.' 1 (i. e. before the year he decided not to return 
to France). Layard says that ( his facility led later to 
increasing mannerisms and emptiness', 2 and it is certain 
that his lack of inspiration became more and more evident 
during these last years. 

Our problem, therefore, is to ascertain, if possible, 
how much of his failure is to be ascribed to Lucrezia's 
influence, and in what precise way did it produce its 
effect. History has furnished us with many examples 
shewing that passionate and enduring devotion to a beautiful 
woman is not always fraught with the happiest consequences 
to a man's career, but at least it has been given the 
credit of inspiring his art if he was a painter or poet. 
Must we be robbed also of this illusion? Yet the judgement 
of the critics is that the petty annoyances caused by 
Lucrezia's behaviour, the way in which she drove her 
husband to devote himself to making money instead of to 
enriching his artistic capabilities, and the general squalidness 
of feeling resulting from her lack of appreciation and 
imagination, conspired to kill in Andrea whatever soul he 

1 Guinness: op. cit, p. 56. 

2 Layard: op. cit., p. 460. 


might have had, and stifled his genius for ever. To quote 
again from Browning's poem: 

Had you, with these [beauties] the same, but brought 

a mind! 
Some women do so. Had the mouth there urged 
4 God and the glory! Never care for gain. 
' The present by the future, what is that? 
'Live for fame, side by side with Angolo! 
'Rafael is waiting: up to God, all threeT 
I might have done it for you. So it seems. 

Perhaps if we examine more closely the precise mental 
relationship between the two mates, calling to our aid 
psycho-analytical knowledge in so doing, we may reach a 
clearer understanding of the way in which it affected 
Andrea. As soon as we do this it becomes clear that love 
could not have been the sole feature comprising his attitude 
towards Lucrezia, and that our understanding of the 
Situation must be imperfect unless we also take into con- 
sideration the influence of other emotions, especially that 
of hate. 

There are several good reasons for coming to this 
conclusion. In the first place, there is in all people a 
certain amount of ambivalence of affect, so that it is hardly 
possible for an intense and lasting emotion to be aroused 
without its opposite being at the same time stimulated and 
an increase being caused of the natural counter-tendency. 
Especially is this so when, as in the present case, the 
emotion is unusually strong, for then it is almost inevitably 
accompanied by a counter-emotion (of variable intensity) 
in the unconscious. 

In the second place, no man could have suffered what 
Andrea did from his wife without its provoking a natural 


resentment. To be foiled in his aspirations and ambitions, 
to be henpecked and hampered in his daily work, to be 
cut off from his friends and relatives, to have his life 
spoilt in every respect except one (that of possessing the 
woman he loved): these are things that would provoke 
even the mildest man. Whether the one compensation 
counterbalances all the rest, that is, to be sure, another 
matter. We may grant that with Andrea it did, so that 
he definitely preferred his present life to existence without 
Lucrezia, but he would not have been human if, side by 
side with this constant devotion, there was not produced 
in him as well a counter-reaction of (repressed) hate. 
Further, the fact that he was able to enjoy such a life of 
torment indicates a pleasure in suffering, a masochism, that 
is always accompanied by its opposite in the unconscious, 
namely sadism, with the tendency to hate that is apt to 
go with this; we shall recur to this in a moment. 1 

Thirdly, and perhaps most important, there is a deeper 
ground for supposing that Andrea's love for his wife was 
connected with unconscious emotions of a very different 
kind. For there is reason to believe that the normal 
homosexual component of the love-impulse, particularly the 
feminine variety of this, was unusually developed with him. 
It is at all events certain that before his marriage he 
entered into the enjoy ment of male society with the 
keenest zest. 

When he was twenty-one years old he was persuaded 
by an older friend, Franciabigio, to leave his master and 
to set up in a studio and lodgings which the two were to 
share in common; for a time they even signed their work 
in common. After living a year or so thus, Andrea changed 
his lodgings so as to be in the same street as two other 

1 The account of Strindberg's marriage, given in his 'Confessions 
of a Fool,' is an ample illustration of this paragraph. 


friends, Sansovino and Rustici. His relations with Francia 
are described as having been 'of the dosest possible 
friendship', while of his friendship with Jacopo Sansovino 
Vasari writes, 'nay, so close an intimacy and so great an 
affection was subsequently contracted by Jacopo and Andrea 
for each other that they were never separate night or 
day\ x During this time Andrea is said to have been a 
great favourite in his circle, to have delighted exceedingly 
in lively society, and to have taken a leading part in 
various jokes, 2 not always too refined, 3 that were played in 
the clubs of which he was a member. It is not to be 
supposed that the surrendering of these pleasures through 
his marriage cost him nothing. 

It is not without significance that the friends to whom 
he was most especially attached were all older than himself; 
Francia by five years, Sansovino by two, Rustici by 
fourteen, and so on. One cannot avoid connecting this 
with the fact that he had two older brothers; in many of 
his pictures one sees this mirrored by the portrayal of a 
playful rivalry between the infant Jesus, sheltering in his 
mother's arms, and one or more older boys (St. John the 
Baptist, etc.). 4 Pointing in the same direction as these facts 

1 Vasari: op. cit., Vol. III, p. 184. 

2 Vasari: op. cit, Vol. V, pp. 72-6; Scott: op. cit, pp. 86, 87. 
8 Most of these were connected with food. To those familiär with 

Ferenczi's work on homosexual ity it may be of interest to know that 
Andrea took an especial interest in the matter of eating; he did his 
own marketing every morning in order to secure the choicest tit-bits of 
his favourite articles of diet, covered the walls of his house with frescoes 
representing scenes of cooking, table-laying, etc. (these are still to be 
seen), and was so fond of good living that, according to Vasari, it 
shortened his life by lowering his resistance to the plague. 

4 Dr. Havelock Ellis has called my attention to an indication ot 
homosexuality shewn in Andrea's art According to Brücke (Schönheit 
und Fehler der menschlichen Gestalt, S. 39), he gave his angels boys* 
arms, instead of the more customary girls' arms. 


is the description of Andrea's disposition as that of 4 a 
gentle, diffident, mild-mannered and modest man 1 . Finally, 
if Vasari's Statement is true that Andrea was 'tormented 
by jealousyV we have the plainest evidence of homo- 
sexuality, for an obsessional jealousy 2 is an almost certain 
indication of this. 

In these circumstances Andrea's attachment to his 
wife may be regarded, at least in part, as denoting a flight 
from his repressed homosexual tendencies. She became at 
once his anchor of salvation, to which he must cling at 
all costs, as well as the barrier against the satisfying ot 
his repressed desires. As his refuge from himself she in- 
creased his love; as the person who deprived him of the 
pleasure of male society she increased his hate. This hate 
could not be allowed to become conscious because the 
reason for it was repressed, and could therefore manifest 
itself only by evoking an exaggerated amount of love to 
counterbalance it. 

In his attitude towards his wife there was thus a 
constant conflict. The matter is still further complicated 
by the probability that much of his homosexual masochistic 
desire must have found satisfaction in her peculiar tempera- 
ment; in other words, he loved her as a woman loves a 
man, 3 a common enough occurrence in marriage. We can 

i Vasari: op. cit, Vol. III, p. 194. 

2 There is every reason to believe that Lucrezia was in reality 
faithful to him. 

3 He sometimes actually depicted her as a man, particularly (and 
appropriately enough) as Michael, the Christian god of war. 

Of other complex-indicators in his paintings I will mention three, 
(1) On the pedestal of the Madonna in his masterpiece, mentioned above, 
are several harpies, which are of course entirely out of place in a subject 
of this character; so far as I know it is the only instance of a Pagan 
motive occurring in any of Andrea's works, and it is so striking here as 
to have given the picture the name of the 'Madonna dell'Arpie'. Critics 


hardly think otherwise when we contrast his own meek 
disposition with her domineering haughtiness; it is also 
significant that she was some four years older than himself. 
Reumont's description of him as ' a good-natured, modest, 
unpretentious but weak man entirely at the mercy of his 
own impulses as well as of his dominant wife' 1 is in füll 
accord with this conclusion. 

We now begin to understand better the enormous 
hold that Lucrezia possessed over Andrea. His love was 
maintained in a constant state of high tension because it 
had to serve, in addition to its own functions, that of 
damming back both repressed hate and homosexuality. 
She could demand anything of him, and treat him however 
she liked, for without her he was lost; he could not afford 
not to love her. 

Returning now to our main problem, of the influence 
of the Situation on Andrea's art, we may wonder why the 
current conflict did not throw him back towards older, 
infantile ones (regression), from which he might derive 
deeper sources of Stimulation, or at least why he did not 
seek an escape from them in his work. One answer to 
the former question probably is that the infantile complexes 

have been completely mystified by this, but, it my Suggestion 
concerning Andrea's unconscious attitude towards his wife is correct, it 
should not be difficult of explanation. (2) A favourite topic of Andrea's, 
which he painted no less than five times, is Abraham's sacrifice of his 
son Isaac. Critics comment on the wonderful benignity of the father in 
these pictures, and the implicit trust and self-surrender displayed by 
the son as he sees the father's knife approach. In view of our remarks 
above on Andrea's homosexual masochism this also becomes more 
comprehensible. (3) Andrea shews a special preference for painting 
figures seated cross-legged on the floor, in the graceful composition of 
which he developed a remarkable skill. It is hard not to connect this 
with the fact that his father was a tailor and that later in life Andrea 
changed his surname from Agnolo to del Sarto (Sarto = tailor). 
1 Reumont: op. cit, S. 214. 



were either not strong enough to attract the driven back 
Libido or eise were incapable ot being sublimated in the 
desired direction; this is, it is true, an unsatisfactory sketch 
of an answer, but to fill it in would mean the opening up 
of many topics other than those we are here concerned 
with. Another answer, applicable to both questions, is that 
the current conflicts were of such a kind as to allow no 
escape from them, even in phantasy. How could 
Andrea sink himself into his art (flight into work) when 
there was Lucrezia in the body, with him at every moment? 
She was practically his sole model, she ordered the Workshop, 
directed what her husband was to do and what not 
(according to what she thought would best pay), and left 
him no moment of peace in which to develop his own 
individuality. With right could Browning make him say, 

So — still they 1 overcome 
Because there's still Lucrezia, — as I choose. 

The last three words express the core of the Situation. 
The love for Lucrezia, with its superadded sources that 
we have indicated above, was stronger than all eise, 
including the desire for artistic expression, so that in this 
sense it may perhaps be said that she was responsible 
for the ruin of his genius. It would be a more accurate 
way of putting it to say that she forced the internal battle, 
which is necessary for all artistic creation, to be fought 
out in the current details of everyday life, and so allowed 
him no opportunity to gather strength and inspiration that 
could be applied to higher aims. Her domineering master- 
fulness enabled her to choose the scene of battle, and her 
egocentricity demanded that she should be the centre of it. 

1 i.e. Raphael and others. 


But after all, the reason for the Situation lay at least 
as much in Andrea as in Lucrezia. If she had never existed 
he would probably, with his special temperament, have 
found another Lucrezia. And here one cannot help feeling 
the difference between a masculine, creative temperament 
and a feminine, receptive one, whether they occur in the 
body of a man or a woman being irrelevant. Scott says 
very justly in this connection: 'In looking at Andrea's 
pictures one sighs even in the midst of admiration, thinking 
that if the hand which produced them had been guided 
by a spark of divine genius instead of the finest talent, 
what glorious works they would have been! The truth is 
that Andrea's was a receptive, rather than an original and 
productive mind. His art was more imitative than spon- 
taneous, and this forms perhaps the difference between 
talent and genius V As regards the development of Andrea's 
art, therefore, Lucrezia may practically be said to have 
played little more than the part of a lay figure; it was 
his temperament that made her mean to him all that she 
did. The problem is thus reduced, like so many psycho- 
logical ones, to one of temperamental Constitution. If Andrea 
had not been what he was, Lucrezia could not have played 
the part in his life that she did; but it is probable that 
if she had not been what she was he still would have 
tried to make her play that part, i. e. she still would have 
been to him the man, and not the helpmate woman. One 
side of his nature was developed, but not the other. I 
must once more quote from Browning's poem. 

I know both what I want and what might gain, 

And yet how profitless to know, to sigh 

( Had I been two, another and myself, 

Our head would have o'erlooked the world!* No doubt. 

1 Scott: op. cit., pp. 72, 73. 



In this world, who can do a thing, will not; 

And who would do it, cannot, I perceive; 

Yet the will's somewhat — somewhat, too, the power — 

And thus we half-men struggle. 

In short, if Andrea had been able to react differently 
towards his everyday difficulty, he might have displayed 
the genius of a creator instead of merely the talent of a 
skilful craftsman. He might have been an artist, and 
was — only a painter. 




The life-history of Louis Bonaparte, the brother of the 
great Napoleon and the father of Napoleon III, is of no 
special interest in itself, but it acquires some extrinsic 
importance through the part he played in contributing to 
his brother's downfall, an event the interest and significance 
of which is such as to make worth while any attempt to 
throw further light on the problems surrounding it. For 
it was Louis' attitude towards his brother' s views that 
precipitated the incorporation of Holland in the Empire, 
and so added one more to the nations that presently rose 
and overthrew Napoleon. An attempt will here be made 
to increase our understanding of this attitude by adducing 
some psychological considerations regarding Louis' personality. 
The problem can be shortly described as follows: 2 
Louis was made King of Holland by Napoleon's will on 
June the 5th, 1806, with the very grudging consent of 

1 Read before the American Psychopathological Association, 
May 8, 1913; published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology^ 
Dec. 191 3, Vol. VIII, p. 289. 

2 The original authorities from which the following details are 
taken are for the most part dealt with in Atteridge's 'Napoleon's 
Brothers', Rocquain's 'Napoleon et le Roi Louis', and in Masson's works, 
so that it is not necessary to give individual bibliographical references here. 


the Dutch. He had hesitated considerably before accepting 
the proposal, and once having done so he proceeded to 
take up an independent position in Opposition to his brother. 
Napoleons object was, of course, to bring Holland more 
directly under his own control than before, to merge her 
interests in those of France, and to make her join in his 
great contest with England. It was just a few months 
before he issued his famous Berlin decree, after which he 
went on to league the whole of the Continent against 
England in the blockade that was intended to starve her 
into Submission by paralysing her export trade. Holland 
was at that time the chief point at which this trade 
entered the Continent, so that she could not remain neutral, 
but had to take one side or the other. To join with 
Napoleon would involve the practical destruction of her 
own trade, with extreme economic distress until the end 
of the war, but it was essential to his project that she 
should make this sacrifice, for which she might be re- 
compensed by the restoring of her colonies if England were 
conquered. Her narrower national interests were therefore 
of necessity opposed to the general Continental scheme 
that Napoleon was aiming at, and Louis, although he had 
been sent to Holland purely for the purpose of supporting 
and enforcing this scheme, chose to adopt the Dutch 
point of view and hinder his brother's plans. He would 
not admit that he was merely a French prince governing 
what was practically a part of the Empire, in the 
interests of the latter as a whole, but regarded himself 
as an independent sovereign whose duty it was to rule in 
the interests of his subjects, a laudable enough aim if his 
view of his Situation had only happened to be in conformity 
with the real facts. This attitude, which was indicated on 
the day of his State entry into the Hague by his allowing 
hardly any French to take part in the procession, in which 


Dutch cavalry formed the escort, became more and more 
pronounced as time went on, in spite of the most vigorous 
protests from Napoleon, and extended to the whole sphere 
of government. In a book written many years later he 
stated that he entertained throughout different views from 
his brother on every question that concerned Holland, on 
the problems of conscription, religion, trade, war, and 
so on, as well, of course, as on the alHmportant matter 
of the Continental blockade. The efforts of the French 
officials were vain in their endeavour to suppress the 
wholesale smuggling that was rendering the blockade 
inefficacious, and Napoleon became more and more 
exasperated. Finally he was driven to undertake the gradual 
absorption of Holland into the Greater France he was 
then building up. Louis, seeing clearly whither hfs brother 
was trending, first consented to surrender all his territory 
up to the banks of the Meuse, but three months later, 
when the French army was ordered to march into 
Amsterdam, he abdicated in favour of his son and fled 
surreptitiously into Bohemia (July 3, 18 10). His where- 
abouts were discovered two weeks later, but he resisted 
all Napoleon's entreaties and commands to return to France, 
and proceeded to Gratz, where he lived until just before 
the fall of the Empire. The incorporation of the whole of 
Holland into France immediately followed, and this led to 
chronic discontent and insurrection that lasted until the 
final overthrow of the French yoke in 18 14. 

The thesis here maintained is that Louis' conduct was 
not altogether due to' his political blindness in refusing to 
recognise the inexorable facts of his Situation, but was in 
part determined by his personal attitude towards Napoleon, 
a matter that becomes more intelligible in the light of 
modern psychopathology. His lack of co-operation with 
his brother was not confined to the period of his short 


Dutch reign, but extended over some seventeen years, 
until the end of the Empire. Both before these years and 
after them he was an enthusiastic supporter and defender 
of his brother, so that we see two opposite tendencies 
manifesting themselves in his life. More than this, the 
beginning of the period of hostility synchronised with a 
complete change in his general character and disposition; 
we may therefore suspect that we have to do here with 
something that lay near to the core of his personality. 

I proceed now to give an account, as brief as possible, 
of Louis' life, particularly in regard to his relations with 
his brother. As is well known, he was Napoleon's favourite 
brother, was educated personally by him, and was for many 
years hardly separated from him. Napoleon attached him 
to his staff when he was barely sixteen, and he remained 
in this position, passing through various stages of promotion, 
for the greater part of the next three years, from shortly 
after the fall of Toulon until nearly the end of the first 
Italian campaign. He seemed at this time to be a very 
active and promising officer; at the battle of Areola he 
distinguished himself by acts of especial courage and daring, 
and at Lodi he is said — though this has been denied — to 
have saved Napoleon's life. Just after this, when he was 
in his twentieth year, came about the striking character 
change, which was to reduce him for the rest of his life 
to being little more than a useless eneumbrance to all 
about him. It followed on a serious illness, of which we 
shall say more presently, and was marked by moodiness, 
depression, irresolution, seclusiveness and self-withdrawal, 
and above all by a most pronounced valetudinarianism. His 
main and permanent interest now became the care of his 
health, he tried one after another every eure, spa, and 
health-resort within reach, and he used this as a pretext 
to refuse, or to hesitate about aeeepting, all the duties 


that were successively imposed on him. In other words, 
he became a confirmed hypochondriac. He protested against 
going to Egypt with Napoleon, and was with him there 
only three months before he got permission to return to 
France. Three years later he refused to accompany his 
brother in the second Italian campaign that was to end in 
Marengo, going instead to Aix. In 1806 he hesitated about 
accepting the crown of Holland on account of thfc damp- 
ness of the Dutch climate, and when his brother over-ruled 
his objections he stayed in his new kingdom only a month 
before leaving for Wiesbaden, leaving the government in 
the hands of his ministers; within a week of reaching 
Holland he had written to Napoleon saying that he was 
suffering from the change of climate and must have a 
holiday. In the following year, in the contest with Prussia 
that culminated in Jena, he hesitated to join the army, 
was filled with concern lest the English should descend 
on Holland, and behaved throughout the campaign in such 
a pusillanimous and timorous manner as to convince even 
his brother that he was totally unfitted for military command. 
The year after, Napoleon, seeing that he did not serve his 
purpose in Holland, offered him the crown of Spain, but 
Louis refused it, on the ground that he was pledged to 
Holland. Two years later came the abdication and retirement 
to Gratz. When the Russian campaign was embarked on 
he remained in Gratz, prophesying disaster to his brother. 
At the beginning of 18 13 he wrote to Napoleon offering 
his Services on condition that his kingdom was restored, 
a demand that he repeated several times throughout the 
year, and in November he came to France, staying at his 
mother's chateau at Pont-sur-Seine. Napoleon pointed out 
that he was being hampered in his efforts to come to 
terms with the Allies by his brother' s absurd pretentions 
to the throne of Holland at such a moment, and gave 


Orders to Cambac&res, the Arch-Chancellor of the Empire, 
that if Louis did not make his Submission within two days 
he was to be arrested. Louis fled to Switzerland, but late 
in January of 1814 he came to Paris and made his peace 
with Napoleon, whom he now saw for the last time. He 
was asked to assist his brother Joseph in the defence of 
Paris, but he deserted it on the eve of the Allies' attack. 
On Napoleon's return from Elba he refused to join him, 
stayed in Italy making sinister prophesies, and was the 
only one of the brothers, not even excluding the recalcitrant 
Lucien — who returned from England after a seven years' 
exile — , that took no part in the Hundred Days. 

During, therefore, the whole of Napoleon's period of 
power Louis had either refused to cooperate with him or 
eise did so only very grudgingly and half-heartedly. Yet 
there were occasional moments even in this time when his 
old devotion to his brother reasserted itself, particularly 
when the latter seemed in danger; an example of this 
was when Napoleon was given up for lost in Egypt after 
the destruction of his fleet, Louis being unceasing in his 
insistence that the Directory should spare no efforts to 
send reinforcements to Egypt and relieve his brother. As 
was mentioned above, Louis* attitude towards his brother 
once more underwent a change after the downfall of the 
latter, and still more markedly after his death. He busied 
himself in his later life with making replies to Napoleon's 
detractors, and wrote a book, for instance, in answer to 
Sir Walter Scott's 'Life of Napoleon*, in which he made 
the savagest attacks on the integrity of this author. The 
following passages may be quoted from this volume, as 
indicative of his present attitude towards his brother: 
'Napoleon is the greatest man that has ever lived'; 'Since 
the world has existed there has never appeared a general, 
a conqueror, or a King, who can be compared to him\ 


His own delusion öf persecution he parallels, through the 
process of identification, by developing a similar one in 
regard to his brother: ( I am absolutely convinced that 
this gigantic undertaking (the expedition to Russia), as 
well as the affairs in Spain, and the taking over of Holland 
and the Papal States, were simply snares into which the 
people about him managed to seduce him, by means of 
his extraordinary love of fame and his equally unlimited 
striving to make France ever greater and mightier'; 'He 
would have achieved the most brilliant and decisive of all 
his successes had Paris only been able to hold out for a 
few days' (and not been surrendered through treachery). 
In attempting to understand better this ambivalent 
attitude that has just been outlined we have first to ask 
ourselves whether it cannot be explained as a natural 
reaction to Napoleon's own rather similar attitude towards 
his brother. This can best be described as one of striking 
over-estimation of value, followed later by a gradual dis- 
appointment and increasing annoyance. To call it an 
alternation of love and hate, which we plainly see in the 
case of Louis, would be to give a very imperfect and 
incorrect description of it, though, and this is an important 
point, the external manifestations of it might be so inter- 
preted by someone who experienced this alternation him- 
self, just as the normal conduct of a parent is often in 
this way interpreted by an over-sensitive child. For 
Napoleons treatment of Louis did actually resemble that 
of an over-fond parent on the one hand and that of an 
over-stern one on the other, and no doubt Louis inter- 
preted it as such. A few illustrations will make this clearer, 
and it will help our uriderstanding of the Situation if we 
try to imagine the effect that the attitude described would 
have on a boy who doted on his clever and masterful 
brother, eight years older than himself. 


Louis' first memory of his brother was that of a 
young officer of seventeen, on his first leave of absence 
to visit his Corsican home. Nearly five years later, in 
January 1791, Napoleon took him back with him to 
Auxonne, where he educated him personally and supported 
him at his own expense by dint of making serious 
sacrifices. At this time Napoleon was enchanted with his 
young pupil-brother, wrote home that ( he will turn out a 
better fellow than any of us others', and prophesied a great 
future for him. For a few years Louis developed promisingly 
and seemed to be fulfilling all the hopes his brother had 
built on him. It took a long time to destroy this illusion, 
and Napoleon clung to it for years after it had been 
dissipated for everyone eise who knew Louis. In 1801, for 
instance, after Louis' disappointing behaviour in the 
Egyptian and second Italian campaigns, and four years 
after the change in his disposition noted above, we find 
Napoleon saying 4 There is no longer any need of bothering 
our minds about looking for my successor. I have found one. 
It is Louis. He has none of the defects of my other 
brothers, and he has all their good qualities.' It was only 
gradually that he renounced this project of making Louis 
his successor, and then he replaced it by adopting Louis' 
eldest son, much against the father's will. Not until the 
Prussian campaign of 1806 did Napoleon realise his 
brother's total incapacity. From this time on his treatment 
of Louis became even more arbitrary than before, though 
he had always had a way of disposing of him that savoured 
of the spirit of ownership. His attitude in the later years 
showed still more clearly his characteristic alternation 
between the kindness for a favourite brother and the 
annoyance of a despot at one who constantly disappointed 
and failed him. Thus in the March of 18 10, on hearing 
that his brother had left his Kingdom for a health resort, 


he writes to De Champagny, the Minister for Foreign 
Affairs, 4 Prince Louis is to retire from the States of Baden 
instantly, eise he is to be arrested and shut up in a French 
fortress to expiate all his crimes', 1 while two months later, 
in a letter to Louis himself, he refers to him as ( a prince 
who was almost a son to me \ Three days after this friendly 
letter he writes to his brother 4 Write me no more of your 
customary twaddle; three years, now, it has been going 
on, and every instant proves its falsehood', adding in a 
postscript of his own handwriting ' This is the last letter I 
shall ever write to you in my life \ In another two months 
he is writing to Lebrun, his Lieutenant-General in Holland, 
expressing the strengest solicitude and love for Louis. In 
the November of 1 8 1 3 he writes to Cambac^res, ' I am 
sending you a letter from King Louis, which appears to 
me that of a madman', and the day after sends him 
Instructions to have Louis arrested unless he gives in his 
Submission ; but two months later he is receiving Louis in 
the Tuileries with the greatest kindness. 

If we now compare the attitudes of Napoleon and 
Louis towards each other, we see that there are marked 
differences in the two cases. Napoleon's attitude is perfectly 
consistent throughout, and is in accord with his whole 
character. It is that of a masterful man who becomes 
disappointed at not being able to make the use he had 
hoped of someone he had over-estimated to begin with, 
and it is practically identical with his attitude towards 
many of his followers, such as Junot, Mass&ia, Murat, and 
others. Any change in his treatment of Louis is quite 
intelligible in the light of this, and needs no further ex- 
planation. In any case it cannot be regarded as the cause 

1 This letter, and other similar ones, was omitted from the 
Correspondence of Napoleon, published in the reign of Louis' son, 
Napoleon III, and they have only recently been made public. 


of Louis* change in attitude, for this had preceded it by 
several years and must therefore have been the prior one. 
Louis* attitude, which was obviously much more personal, 
gives, on the other hand, the impression of proceeding 
from some inner conflict, and this inference is greatly 
strengthened both by the fact that the change in it was 
accompanied by a severe neurotic disturbance and by a 
number of other considerations which will presently be 

It is already not difficult to surmise what the nature 
of this conflict must have been, namely his homosexual 
attraction to Napoleon, and having this key we can unlock 
most of the problems here under discussion. That the 
homosexual component, of the feminine variety, was 
unusually pronounced in Louis there is little room to doubt. 
To judge from the stories of his dissipations in the inter- 
vals of the Italian campaign, he was making a manful 
attempt to overcome this tendency and to develop the 
heterosexual side of his nature, when the event happened 
that was to change his whole life and ruin his happiness. 
This was an attack of venereal disease, w T hich caused in 
his twentieth year a long and serious illness, and which 
left him a hypochondriacal invalid, permanently crippled 
by what in all probability was gonorrhoeal rheumatism. 
From this moment he became a changed man. The 
influence that such an event may exercise in the case of 
a man of a certain disposition is well-known to us from 
experience in daily practice, and has often been illustrated 
in history, notably in the case of Nietzsche. A pronounced 
misogyny is apt to develop, aided by the primary weakness 
of the heterosexual instinct, and the only avenue of escape 
from the homosexual tendency is thus violently closed. In 
Louis* case the event threw him back for a time on his 
old love for Napoleon, and we find Josephine in 1800 


making to Roederer the strong Statement, ( He loves 
Bonaparte as a- lover does his mistress. The letters he 
wrote to him when he left Egypt are so tender as to 
make tears come to one's eyes '. This remark is made by 
a woman who disliked her husband's brothers, and who 
had a rieh experience in what love letters should be like; 
the significance of the remark is therefore not to be 

Louis' misogyny, however, was far from being absolute, 
and he made several further attempts to find consolation 
in the arms of woman. Early in 1798 he had fallen in 
love with a school-friend of his sister's, a niece of Josephine, 
but Napoleon interfered and put an end to the affair by 
taking the girl from school and promptly marrying her to 
one of his adjutants, Lavalette. In his disappointment 
Louis plunged into reckless dissipation in Paris, but his 
soldier brother again stepped in, carried him off to Toulon 
on the way to Egypt, told him to stop playing the fool, 
and made him march reluctantly along the path of military 
glory. Four years later Napoleon again undertook to direct 
his love-instinct, this time in a more positive way by getting 
him to marry Josephine's daughter, Hortense. Louis at 
first sulked, and fled to his country estate at Baillon in 
order to avoid the young lady, but he ultimately gave his 
consent to the wedding, which took place on March the 
3rd, 1802, when he was twenty-four years old. From the 
point of view of happiness the marriage was, as might 
have been expected, a complete failure. Within a few 
, weeks his old dreamy restless mood again took possession 
of him, his wife became anxious and unhappy, and after 
two months of married life he abandoned her in Paris, so 
that she had to return to her mother. Seven months later 
a son was born, Napoleon Charles (the names of his 
brother and father), and the rumour became current that 


Napoleon was the father. It is practically certain that »the 
rumour was false, but it was so persistent and so wide- 
spread throughout Europe that Napoleon, after making an 
effort to discredit it, reconciled himself to it and concluded 
that, since he meant to make the boy his heir and 
successor, it wouldn't be altogether a bad thing if it was 
believed that he was his own son. 

From this time Louis' old affection for his brother 
disappeared more completely, and was more obviously 
replaced by a mixture of suspicion and smothered hatred. It is 
not definitely known to what extent he shared the populär 
belief about his son, but his subsequent conduct makes 
it highly probable that he was unable altogether to dis- 
miss it from his mind. He was jealous of Napoleon's 
intense fondness for the boy, and refused to allow him to 
be chosen as the successor to the Imperial throne for 
fear that Napoleon might adopt him and take him away; 
later on he refused to let his son be given the crown 
of Italy, and for the same reason. At the same time he 
gave his affection, not to his eldest son, but to the second 
one, about whose paternity there was never any question. 
His married life lasted six or seven years, and was a series 
of jealous quarreis with occasional reconciliations, such as 
during his wife's passionate grief over the death of their 
eldest son. She was prostrated by the occurrence and was 
sent to recuperate at Caute^ets, in the Pyrenees; from 
here rumours reached Louis of her being too friendly 
with Decazes and Verhuell, two of his officials, and he 
now came definitely to believe in her infidelity. Another 
son, who later became Napoleon III, was born the next 
year, and Louis took the view, probably an incorrect one, 
that he was not the father, although he publicly recognised 
the boy as his own. He was permanently estranged from 
his wife after the Pyrenees visit, and in December 1809 


he formally petitioned for a Separation. This was the very 
month in which Napoleon was arranging his divorce from 
Josephine, a circumstance which cannot be a coincidence, 
for it was a most inopportune moment; it clearly shows 
how Louis was still identifying himself with his brother. 
A family Council was called together, according to the 
French law, and to avoid scandal an informell Separation 
was arranged, which lasted until Hortense's death 
twenty-eight years later. Not long after this Napoleons 
son was born, Marie-Louise's child, and Louis, who was 
now in retirement in Gratz, reacted to the news as though 
the event had been purposely arranged as a personal blow 
against himself; he became more embittered than ever 
against the Emperor, who, according to him, had robbed 
him of his throne, taken his children from him, and had 
now produced a son himself who was to steal the herit- 
age of Louis. The last relation he had with his wife was 
to bring a law-suit against her on the fall of the Empire 
to get possession of his eider surviving son, the one 
concerning whose paternity there was no question; he was 
granted this by the courts, but Hortense refused to part 
with the boy. 

An interesting matter, and one which throws much 
light on Louis' conduct at the most important period of 
his life, is that his reactions in the sphere of international 
politics to a large extent duplicated those of his personal 
life in relation to his brother, a process known as intro- 
jection (Ferenczi). This is well brought out in a book he 
published some nineteen years after his abdication, from 
which I quote the following passage : ' Since a great State 
must necessarily exert an important influence on the others, 
I wanted this influence (in the case of France and Holland) 
to be the result of friendship, of good treatment, of mutual 
inclination and of benevolence on the part of the stronger 



one in regard to the weaker, so that the interest of the 
latter would come into accord witli its inclination.' This 
is evidently a parallel of his idea of what Napoleon's 
attitude should be towards him personally. How far he 
carried the identification of himself with Holland is illus- 
trated by his cherishing the delusion that his former 
kingdom was mourning his absence and longing for his 
return, and this at the end of 1813, at a time when the 
Dutch were rising in insurrection against the French yoke 
and were massacring French officials in large numbers; 
Louis even went so far about this time as to write to a 
number of prominent men in Amsterdam assuring them 
that he would soon be amongst them again and that their (!) 
desire to have him as their permanent King would be 

We may now sum up the preceding discussion. Thanks 
to the investigations of the past few years it is known 
that delusions of jealousy and delusions of persecution 5 
the two most characteristic Symptoms of the paranoid 
Syndrome, are practically pathognomonic of repressed homo- 
sexuality, in which they take their origin, and on this 
ground alone, quite apart from the other evidence detailed 
above, we are justified in concluding that here lay the 
root of Louis* trouble. The delusions of persecution are 
the expression of disappointed love, and are brought 
about by means of a double inversion of the underlying 
content. The love is replaced by hate, a process often 
enough pointed out by poets and writers, and the emotion 
is ascribed to, or projected on to, % the person towards 
whom it was originally directed. This explains how it is 
that such delusions always begin in reference to persons 
whom the patient had loved, though they usually extend 
later to others who replace these in his imaginätion. 
Finding that he cannot love them he hates them instead, 


and fäncies that they hate him. In Louis' case this delusion 
remained chiefly localised to Napoleon, but we noted a 
tendency to extension in his conviction that Napoleon, 
with whom he here identifies himself, was the victim 01 
a carefully laid plot to Iure him to destruction. The psycho- 
logical structure of delusions of jealousy is still simpler, 
there being merely a projection of the emotion, without 
any change in the nature of this. The patient accuses his 
wife of loving a man whom he himself would like to love» 
This also, like the previous one, may get generalised, and 
with Louis we see examples of both kinds. He suspects 
his wife of having sexual relations first with Napoleon, 
and then later with other men, members not of his 
actual family, but of his symbolic family, his court. It is 
instructive to see that the second of these suspicions, being. 
a more disguised manifestation of the homosexual wish, 
is allowed to come to more open expression than the 
first one; the former was a fixed idea, while the latter 
was hardly more than a half-avowed suspicion. 

It is not really correct to speak of delusions with 
Louis, at least not in the strict Psychiatric sense of the 
word, for it is rather a question of preconscious beliefs 
which his reflective judgement was able to a great extent 
to hold in check. Louis never became a true paranoiac, 
though he certainly exhibited definite paranoid tendencies. 
All through his life we see him struggling against these, 
and against the homosexuality from which they sprang. As 
an instance of the devices he adopted to defend himselt 
against his delusional tendencies may be quoted the follow- 
ing: Some years after Napoleon's death he published the 
Statement that his brother had never been unfaithful to 
Josephine; Napoleon, whose amöurs were the talk ot 
Europe, and who was known to have had at least thirty 
mistresses during his wedded life with Josephine! The 



object of this attempt at self-deception on Louis' part is 
quite piain; if Napoleon had never betrayed Josephine, it 
was a guarantee that he could never have betrayed Louis 
and that the latter's suspicion regarding his wife had been 
unfounded. By such desperate measures as this Louis kept 
his abnormal tendencies to some extent within check, and 
so managed to preserve his reason, but it was at a heavy 
cost, at the expense of becoming a nervous invalid for 
the whole of his life. He sacrificed his health rather than 
his reason, and he had no energy left to make him a 
useful member of society. 

Of the bearing that Louis' conduct had on his 
brother's plans, of the difference it made to the course 
of history, and the not inconsiderable extent to which it 
contributed, directly and indirectly, to the downfall of the 
Empire, this is not the place to speak; the object of the 
present paper is merely to illustrate that knowledge gained 
from psychopathology, and unobtainable in any other way, 
may be of service in helping to elucidate even purely 
historical problems. * 

1 Mention may be made here of two other attempts to apply 
psycho-analytical knowledge to an historical problem : Abraham: 
'Amenhotep IV. (Echnaton.) Psychoanalytische Beiträge zum Verständnis 
seiner Persönlichkeit und des monotheistischen Aton-Kultes', Imago, 191 2, 
Bd. I, S. 334; and Flügel: 'On the Character and Married Life of Henry 
Vlir, International Journal of Psycho- Analysis, 1920, Vol. 1, p. 24. 





I Introduction ...... 

. 261 

II The Legend of the Virgin Mary's Conception through the Ear 264 

III Breath and Fertilisation ..... 269 

1. Blowing Movement 

. 275 

2. Sound ..... 

. 282 

3. Invisibility and Fluidity. Thought. Soul 

. 290 

4. Moisture ..... 

. 301 

5. Warmth. Speech. Tongue. Fire 

. 304 

6. Odour ..... 

. 312 

7. Summary ..... 

• 317 

IV The Dove and the Annunciation 

. 321 

V The Ear as the Receptive Organ 

• 341 

VI Conclusion ...... 

- 356 



The object of the present essay is to illustrate, by 
the analysis of a Single example, the following thesis: that 
the close relation of aesthetics to religion is due to the 
intimate connection between their respective roots. 

1 Published in the Jahrbuch der Psychoanalyse, 1914, Band VL 



The closeness of the relation, which is perhaps more 
striking with the higher religions, is shewn in manifold 
ways: sometimes by the diametrical Opposition of the two, 
as in the iconoclastic outbursts of Savonarola or the 
English Puritans against art, but more frequently by the 
remarkable union between the two. The latter may be 
manifested both positively, as when art and religion are 
fused in worship (religious dancing, painting, music, singing, 
architecture; ( The works of the Lord are lovely to behokT, 
l God is lovely in his holiness', etc.), and negatively, as 
when religion condemns the same piece of conduct, now 
as sinful, now as ugly or disgusting. 

It is widely recognised that the ultimate sources ot 
artistic creativeness lie in that region . of the mind outside 
consciousness, and it may be said with some accuracy that 
the deeper the artist reaches in his unconscious in 
the search for his inspiration the more profound is the 
resulting conception likely to be. It is also well known that 
among these ultimate sources the most important are psycho- 
sexual phantasies. Artistic creation serves for the expression 
of many emotions and ideas, love of power, sympathy at 
suffering, desire for ideal beauty, and so on, but — unless 
the term be extended so as to include admiration for any 
form whatever of perfection — it is with the last of these, 
beauty, that aesthetics is principally concerned; so much 
so that aesthetic feeling may well be defined as that which 
is evoked by the contemplation of beauty. Now, analysis 
of this aspiration reveals that the chief source of its 
Stimuli is not so much a primary impulse as a reaction, a 
rebellion against the coarser and more repellent aspects 
of material existence, one which psychogenetically arises 
from the reaction of the young child against its original 
excremental interests. When we remember how extensively 
these repressed coprophilic tendencies contribute, in their 


sublimated forms, to every variety of artistic activity — to 
painting, sculpture, and architecture on the one hand, and 
to music and poetry on the other — it becomes evident 
that in the artist's striving for beauty the fundamental part 
played by these primitive infantile interests (including their 
later derivatives) is not to be ignored: the reaction against 
them lies behind the striving, and the Sublimation of them 
behind the forms that the striving takes. 

When on the other hand religious activities, interests 
and rites, are traced to their unconscious source it is found 
that, although— as I have pointed out in the case ot 
baptism 1 — they make extensive use of the same psychical 
material as that indicated above, they differ from aesthetic 
interests especially in that the main motives are derived 
not so much from this sphere as from another group of 
infantile interests, that concerned with incestuous phantasies. 2 
At jfirst sight, therefore, aesthetics and religion would 
appear to have on the whole disparate biological origins. 
Freud's 3 researches have demonstrated, however — and this 
is not the least far-reaching of their conclusions — that 
infantile coprophilia belongs essentially to the as yet un- 
coordinated infantile sexuality, constituting as it does a 
prominent part of the auto-erotic stage which precedes that 
of incestuous object-love. From this point of view we 
obtain a deeper insight into the present topic, and indeed 
a satisfactory explanation of the problem, for, since aesthetic 
and religious activities are derived from merely different 
components of a biologically unitary instinct, components which 
are inextricably intertwined at their very roots, it becomes 
throughout intelligible that even in their most developed 
forms they should stand in close relationship to each other. 

1 See chapter IV, pp. 125, 162-5. 

2 See Freud: Totem und Tabu, 191 3. 

3 Freud: Drei Abhandlungen zur Sexualtheorie, 4e Aufl., 1920. 




A belief, often forgotten nowadays, but preserved in 
the legends and traditions of the Catholic Church, is that 
the conception of Jesus in the Virgin Mary was brought 
about by the introduction into her ear of the breath of 
the Holy Ghost. I do not know if this is now held as an 
official tenet of the Church, but in past ages it was not 
only depicted by numerous religious artists, but also 
maintained by many of the Fathers and by at least one 
of the Popes, namely Felix. 

St. Augustine 1 writes: 'Deus per angelum loquebatur 
et Virgo per aurem impraegnebatur \ St. Agobard 2 'Des- 
cendit de coelis missus ab arce patris, introivit per aurem 
Virginis in regionem nostram indutus stola purpurea et 
exivit per auream portam lux et Deus universae fabricae 
mundi', and St. Ephrem of Syria 3 'Per novam Mariae 
aurem intravit atque infusa est vita'; similar passages could 
be quoted from various other Fathers, such as St. Proclus, 
St. Ruffinus of Aquileia, etc. In the Breviary of the 
Maronites one reads : i Verbum patris per aurem benedictae 
intravit' , and a hymn 4 , ascribed by some to St. Thomas 
ä Becket, by others to St. Bonaventure, contains the 
following verse: 

Gaude, Virgo, mater Christi, 
Quae per aurem concepisti, 
Gabriele nuntio. 

1 St. Augustine: Sermo de Tempore, xxii. 

2 St. Agobard: De Correctione antiphonarii, Cap. viii. 

3 St. Ephrem: De Divers Serm. I, Opp. Syr., Vol. III, p. 607. 
* Bodley MS., Latin Liturgy, X. Fol. 91 vo. 


Gaude, quia Deo plena 
Peperisti sine pena 

Cum pudoris lilio. 

There were many versions of this current in the middle 
ages; Langlois 1 quotes the following one from the seventeenth 
Century : 

Rejouyssez-vous, Vierge, et Mere bienheureuse, 
Qui dans vos chastes flancs congeutes par l'ouyr, 
L'Esprit-Sainct operant d'un tres-ardent d£sir, 
Est l'Ange l'annon^ant d'une voix amoureuse. 

The event was often portrayed by religious artists in 
the Middle Ages. For instance, in a painting of Filippo 
Lippi's in the convent of San Marco in Florence, in one 
of Gaddi's in the Santa Maria Novella, in one of Benozzo 
Gozzoli's in the Campo Santa of Pisa, and in an old 
mosaic — no longer extant 2 — in Santa Maria Maggiore in 
Rome, the Holy Dove is seen almost entering the Virgin's 
ear. In the first named of these the Dove emanates from 
the right hand of the Father, in the second from his 
bosom; more typically, however, as in the picture of Simone 
Martinfs here reproduced, 3 one which will presently be 
more fully discussed, the Dove emanates from the mouth 
of the Father. The Dove may either constitute a part 
of the Father's breath — as it were a concrete condensation 
of this — or it may itself repeat the emission of breath: in 
the Florence Bargello there are three examples of this 
(by Verrocchio and the Della Robbias), and it may also 
be seen in a picture of the Ferrarese school in the Wallace 
Collection, London, as well as in Martims picture. 

1 Langlois: Essai sur la Peinture sur Verre, 1832, p. 157. 

2 Gori: Thesaurus, Tab. xxx, Vol. III. 

3 See Frontispiece. 


The connection between the fertilising breath of the 
Dove and the child to be conceived is made plainly evident 
in an old panel that used to stand in the Cathedral of 
Saint-Leu, of which Langlois gives the following description: 
'Du bec du St-Esprit jaillissait un rayon lumineux aboutissant 
ä Toreille de Marie, dans laquelle descendait s'introduire, 
dirige par ce meme rayon, un tres-jeune enfant tenant une 
petite croix V A similar picture, by Meister des Marialebens, 
in which also the infant is seen descending along a Tay 
of light may be seen in the Germanisches Museum in 
Nuremberg. We note that here it is a ray of light that 
issues from the mouth of the Dove, instead of the more 
appropriate breath. This equating of radiating breath and 
rays of light is an interesting matter to which we shall 
have to return later. It may have been partly determined 
by the greater technical facility with which rays of light 
can be represented by the painter, but it also has its 
theological aspects, for it is related to the doctrine of the 
monophysite Churches of Armenia and Syria (which split 
off from the Byzantine in the fifth Century) that Jesus's 
body, originating in an emission of light from heaven, was 
made of ethereal fire and had neither bodily structure nor 
functions. Another example of this equation occurs in an 
old stained-glass window which was formerly in the sacristy 
of the Pistoia Cathedral, 2 also representing rays issuing 
from the Dove's mouth and bearing an embryo in the 
direction of the Virgin's head; the picture is surmounted 
by the lines: 

Gaude Virgo Mater Christi 
Quae per Aurem concepisti. 

1 Langlois: loc. cit. 

2 Cicognara: Storia della Scultura, 1813-1818, Vol. I, p. 324. 


In a sculpture now in the Fränkisches Luitpoldmuseum 
at Würzburg 1 a little child carrying a crucifix is seen in 
the midst of the Father's radiating breath and aiming at 
the Virgin's right ear; the Dove here Stands aside, at the 
right side of the head. The presence of the infant at this 
stage was denounced as heretical by the Catholic Church, 
for it contradicted the belief that He took his flesh from 
the Virgin Mary and so was really man. 

As a counterpart to the accompanying picture 01 
Martinas where the sacred words 'Ave Gratia plena dominus 
tecum' are designated passing from Gabriel's lips to the 
Virgin's ear — converging thus with the breath of the 
Dove — may be mentioned a twelfth-century altarpiece at 
Klosterneuburg, 2 by Nicolas Verdun, in which two rays 
escape from the tips of the fingers of Gabriel's right hand 
and are directed towards the Virgin's ear. The anomalous 
termination of light rays in the ear demonstrates the strength 
of the main idea, that of impregnation by means of 
breath — here replaced by its symbolic equivalent of rays 
of light — entering the ear. 

Much discussion took place in subsequent centuries 
over the delicate questions pertaining to the mode of birth 
of the Holy Babe, of whether He left His mother's body 
by the natural route or emerged between the breasts, 
whether the hymen was ruptured, and if so whether its 
integrity was restored later, and so on. 3 It is not proposed, 
however, to discuss these matters here, our attention being 
confined to the initial stage of the process. 

1 Nr. 6 Portalstein der Hauskapelle des Hofes Rödelsee in Würz- 
burg, 1484. 

2 Arneth: Das Niello-Antipendium zu Klosterneuburg, 1844, S. 11. 

3 See Guillaume Herzog: La Sainte Vierge dans l'Histoire, 1908, 
Ch. III, 'La Virginite "in partu'", pp. 38-51. 


This remarkable conception of the process of impreg- 
nation, so foreign to all human experience, * must arouse 
the desire to investigate its meaning, for it evidently 
represents a symbolic expression of some obscure idea 
rather than a mere literal description of a matter-of-fact 
occurrence. Lecky 2 asserts that it ( of course was suggested 
by the title Logos ', but we shall find grounds for doubting 
whether this rationalistic explanation does not reverse 
the actual order of genesis of the two ideas. 

Our interest is further increased when we learn that 
the story is in no way peculiar to Christianity, though 
perhaps it is here that it reaches its most finished and 
elaborate form. Anticipating a little of our later discussion, 
we may mention at this point the legend of Chigemouni, 
the Mongolian Saviour, who chose the most perfect virgin 
on earth, Mahaenna or Maya, and impregnated her by 
penetrating into her right ear during sleep. 3 We shall see 
also that when the Mary legend is dissected into its 
elements each of these can be richly paralleled from extra- 
Christian sources, and that the main ones have proved to 

1 So foreign that Moliere uses it to indicate the utmost limit ot 
ignorance on sexual topics. In the * Ecole des Femmes ' he makes 
Anolphe say that Agnes has asked hirn 

Avec une innocence ä nulle autre pareille, 

Si les enfants qu'on fait se faisoient par l'oreille. 

2 Lecky: History of the Rise and Influence of the Spirit oi 
Rationalism in Europe, Cheaper Edition, Vol. I, p. 212. 

8 Norlk: Biblische Mythologie, 1843, Bd. II, S. 64. Jung {Jahr- 
buch der Psychoanalyse, Bd. IV, S. 204) makes the interesting Statement, 
for which however he gives no authority, that the Mongolian Buddha 
was also born from his mother's ear; the accounts I have read, on the 
contrary, say that he was conceived by the ear, but born by the mouth. 
In a silk banner painted about 1100 A.D. and recently discovered in 
the Cave of the Thousand Buddhas, the first appearance of the babe 
is depicted as being within his mother's sleeve (See Stein: Ruins of 
Desert Cathay, 1912, Vol. II, p. 199), a fact to which Mr. Alfred Ela 
of Boston kindly directed my attenlion. 


be of almost universal interest. It is therefore certain that 
we are concerned, not with a purely local problem of 
early Christian theology, but with a theme of general 
human significance. 

For the sake of convenience the subject will be 
divided up, and an attempt made to answer in order the 
following questions : Why is the creative material represented 
as emanating from the mouth, and why as breath in part- 
icular ? Why is it a dove that conveys it ? And why is the 
ear chosen to be the receptive organ? 


In anthropological, mythological and individual sym- 
bolism, instances of which are too numerous in the literature 
to need quoting here, the mouth has more frequently a 
female significance, being naturally adapted to represent a 
receptive organ. Its capacity, however, to emit fluids 
(saliva and breath), and the circumstance of its containing 
the tongue, the symbolic significance of which will presently 
be considered, render it also suitable for portraying a male 
aperture; the idea of spitting, in particular, is one of the 
commonest symbolisms in folk-lore for the male act (hence, 
for instance, the expression ( the very spit of his faÜier'). 

The idea of the breath as a life-giving agent is familiär 
to us from the passages in the Old Testament: ( And the 
Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and 
breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man 
became a living soul' (Genesis ii. 7); ( The heavens by the 
Word of God did their beginning take; And by the 
breathing of his mouth he all their hosts did make ' (Psalms 
xxxiii. 6). Mohammedan tradition ascribes the miraculous 
impregnation of the Virgin Mary to Gabriel having opened 


the bosom of her garment and breathed upon her womb. 1 
One of the various legends of the birth of the Aztec 
divinity Quetzalcoatl relates that the Lord of Existence, 
Tonacatecutli, äppeared to Chimalma and breathed upon 
her, with the result that she conceived the divine child. 2 

Further than this, the idea of breath has played a 
remarkably extensive part in religion and philosophy, in 
the lowest as well as in the highest beliefs of mankind. 
In Brahmanism it becomes formally identified with the 
Eternal Being, 3 and all over the world it has furnished 
one of the main constituent components of the idea of 
the soul {Hauchseele) 4 

Now when we ask what is the source of this intense 
interest and importance with which the idea in question has 
been invested, such an inquiry may seem almost super- 
fluous, for it will be said that the importance attached to 
the idea of breathing is inherent in the act itself. Breath, 
as a symbol of life, is feit to be a natural and appropriate 
choice. No manifest act is more continuously essential to 
life than that of breathing, and the presence or absence 
of it is the simplest and most primitive test of death; the 
mysterious invisibility of breath finds a meet counterpart 
in that of the soul. 

Psycho-Analysis, however, has by now become familiär 
with the experience of finding various matters taken for 
granted as being something obvious and in no need ot 

1 Säle : Koran, 1734, Note to eh. XIX, citing various Arabian 

2 Bancroft: The Native Races of the Pacific States of North 
America, 1876, Vol. III, p. 271. See also Preuss : Globus, Bd. LXXXVI, 
S. 302. 

3 Deussen : The Philosophy of the Upanishads, Engl. Transl. 1906, 
pp. 39, no. 

4 Wundt: Völkerpsychologie, Bd. II, ' Mythus und Religion ', 1906, 
Zweiter Teil, S. 42 et seq. 


explanation-^infantile amnesiaj affords one of the most 
striking examples of this — and then nevertheless discovered 
that behind this attitude of indifference may lie most 
impörtant problems, just where there was thought to be 
no problem at all. So that, sharpened by such experiences 
in the past, we should not be content to adopt a current 
estimate of mental phenomena until an unbiassed examination 
of the facts confirms the accuracy of it. With the matter 
under consideration this is, in my opinion, not so. In spite 
of the obvious reflections just mentioned, the thesis will 
here be maintained that the current conclusion indicated 
above furnishes only a part answer to the question asked, 
and that much of the significance attached to the idea 
of breath is primarily derived from a source extraneous to 
it. In other words, it is maintained that we have here another 
example of the familiär process of displacement, whereby 
various affects that originally belonged to another idea 
altogether have become secondarily associated with that 
of breath. 

I have tw T o reasons for venturing to differ from the 
generally accepted opinion on this matter, first because 
this seems to me to be based on an erroneous estimate 
of the amount of psychical interest normally attaching to 
the idea of breath, and secondly because it is in open 
disaccord with the principles of psychogenesis. To make 
the idea in question the centre of an elaborate religion, 
philosophy or Weltanschauung, as has been done many 
times in history, seems to me to presuppose an amount 
of primary interest in it which transcends that taken by 
anyone not in the throes of mortal illness. And when we 
explore the Unconscious, that region where so many 
Philosophie and religious ideas have their source, we find 
that the idea of breath is much less impörtant even than 
in consciousness, occupying a rank of almost subordinate 


inferiority. In the numerous cases, for instance, of neurotic 
Symptoms centering about the act of breathing or speaking, 
analysis alvvays shews that the primary importance of the 
act has been over-determined by extraneous factors. There 
is reason, it is true, to think that if we could apply the 
libido theory more extensively to somatic processes, along 
the lines opened up by Ferenczi, the act of breathing 
would assume an importance hard to overestimate, but 
there is no evidence — at all events as yet — to indicate 
that any serious amount of what may be termed ideational 
interest results from this organic importance of the act. 
In the second place, it is a law of psychogenesis, 
founded now on extensive experience, that an idea can 
become psychically important in adult life only through 
becoming associated with, and reinforcing, an earlier chain 
of ideas reaching back into childhood, and that much, or 
even most, of its psychical (as apart from intrinsic) signi- 
ficance is derived from these. Thus whenever we find such 
an idea dating mainly from adult life we may be sure that 
it represents much more than itself — namely, earlier groups 
of important ideas with which it has become associated. 
These considerations are much more extensively applicable, 
and should therefore be regarded as correspondingly more 
potent, with ideas concerned with the adaptation to the 
world of inner, psychical reality than with those relating 
to the outer world, and the religious and philosophic ideas 
referred to — as also those concerning the act of breathing — 
certainly enter into the former category. Now in the 
present instance it must be admitted that the ideational 
interest attaching to the act of breathing arises for the 
most part relatively late, for the infant is usually unaware 
of the act as such, which it performs automatically, and 
which arouses almost as little interest as the beating of 
the heart; even with difficult breathing in disease it is 


rather the sensations of distress (precordial, etc.) that are 
important than the idea itself of the act of breathing. This 
whole argument will not perhaps be very convincing to 
those who have not realised through psycho-analytical 
experience the ontogenetic antiquity of our affective 
processes, but with those who have it must, in my judge- 
ment, carry considerable weight. 

To trace the origin of the various affects that in later 
life invest the idea of breath, or of course those of any 
other idea, is a matter of detailed individual-psychological 
studies and of noting the different displacements that have 
occurred during the growth of the mind. If this is done, 
it will be found, as I pointed out some time ago, 1 that 
much of the interest and affect attaching to this particular 
idea has been derived from that of an excreted air other 
than breath — namely, the gas resulting from intestinal 
decomposition. This conclusion may seem at first sight 
repellent, highly improbable, and above all unnecessary, 
but the truth of it is supported not only by the preceding 
theöretical considerations and the results of actual individual 
analyses, but by a large amount of very definite evidence 
of a purely external nature. Psycho-analytic investigation 
has shewn that from the beginning children take a far greater 
interest in the act referred to than is commonly supposed, 
as is true of all excretory functions, 2 and that they are 
apt in various ways to attach great significance to it, most 
of which of course becomes in later years displaced on 
to other, associated ideas. From this point of view the 
extensive part played by the idea in the obscene jokes of 

1 Jahrbuch der Psychoanalyse ; Bd. IV, S. 588 et seq. 

2 It should not be forgotten that the interest in question is a 
manifestation of the sexual instinct. The part played by breath in infantile 
sexuality is certainly less important than that played by the rectal 



childhood, and indeed in the more allusive ones of later 
years, 1 becomes for the first time intelligible. It is hardly 
necessary to add that, owing to the repugnance of the 
idea, most of the infantile interest in it gets buried in the 
Unconscious and the phantasies concerning it forgotten. 
One of these phantasies, which has a special reference 
to the main theme of this essay, is the identification of 
the material in question with the sexual secretion. In their 
early cogitation about what is done by the father to bring 
about the production of a baby many children originate 
the belief, to which I have elsewhere directed attention,- 
that the mysterious act performed by the parents consists in 
the passage of gas from the father to the mother, just as 
other children imagine it to consist in the mutual passage - 
of urine. Some children, probably the smaller number, go 
on to connect this with the swelling of the mother's 
abdomen during pregnancy, and their personal experience 
of a swollen abdomen due to dyspepsia and intestinal 
decomposition may be the starting-point for reproduction 
phantasies of their own. 3 The possible objection that this 

1 Cp. the volumes of Krauss' Anthropophyteia, which give some 
notion of this. Most farcical comedians on the variety stage make 
almost unconcealed allusions to the act, usually in conjunction with the 

2 Zentralblatt für Psychoanalyse, Jahrg. I, S. 566. In the Jahr- 
buch der Psychoanalyse (191 2, Bd. IV, S. 563) a detailed report is 
given of one of the cases on which my conclusion was based. The ex- 
planation was subsequently, and independently, confirmed by Reitler 
{Zentralblatt für Psychoanalyse^ Jahrg. II, S. 114). 

3 Larguier des Bancels (Arch. de Psychologie, t. XVII, pp. 64-6), 
in a criticism of the present essay, holds that my conclusions *se brisent 
sur un point capital'. Quoting the extremely doubtful conclusions of 
Hartland, to the effect that many savage races are ignorant of any 
connection between sexual intercourse and fecundation, he asks how 
one can attribute to young children greater perspicacity in this respect 
than that possessed by savage adults. My answer is that I attribute to 
both a greater perspicacity than does my critic. That, quite apart from 


is in any way an artificial finding of psycho-analysis, or 
perhaps one that refers only to present-day civilisation, 
can be at once disposed of by mentioning a Single counter- 
part from antiquity. Thus in the Satapatha-Brähmana, 1 and 
in several other passages in the Vedic literature, it is 
described how the Lord of Existence, Pragapati, who had 
created the original gods with the 'out (and in) breathings 
of his mouth', proceeded to create the whole of mankind 
with the ( downward breathings that escape from the back 
part (jaghanät)'; the identity of cosmogonic theories of 
creation with infantile ones has been amply demonstrated 
by Otto Rank. 2 

It will be most convenient to continue the discussion 
at this stage by dissecting the natural associations existing 
between the two expiratory gases, and grouping — rather 
artificially, it is true — various topics under each. Air 
emitted from the body, whether upwards or downwards, 
has the following attributes: blowing movement, sound, 
invisibility, moisture, warmth and odour. 

1. Blowing Movement 

The primitive notion that the down-going breath, to 
use the seemly phrase of the Vedic writers, is a fertilising 
principle has frequently been extended to the wind, as 
might readily have been expected. It is significant 
that the corresponding belief can be traced in every 
quarter of the world, from Australia to Europe. Perhaps 
the most familiär example of it is the legend of Hera, 

actual knowledge, young children commonly imagine the begetting of 
a baby to be dependent on some unknown act between the parents 
may be news to him, but it is a very familiär fact to me, as to all 
others who have intimate experience of the child's mind. 

1 X. Kända, I, iii, 1 and 6; Kända, I, ii, 2. 

2 Otto Rank: 'Volkerpsychologische Parallelen zu den infantilen 
Sexualtheorien', Zentralblatt für Psychoanalyse \ Jahrg. II, S. 372, 425. 



who was fertilised by the wind and conceived Hephaistos. 
In the Algonkin mythology, Mudjekeewis, the West Wind 
and Father of the other winds, quickens the maiden 
Wenonah, who then bears the hero Michabo, better known 
to us under the name of Hiawatha. 1 In Longfellow's well- 
known poem of this name the courtship is described in 
terms that indicate the symbolic equivalence of wind, light, 
speech, odour and music, one which will be discussed later. 

And he wooed her with caresses, 
Wooed her with his smile of sunshine, 
With his flattering words he wooed her, 
With his sighing and his singing, 
Gentlest whispers in the branches, 
Softest music, sweetest odours, 
Till he drew her to his bosom. 

The Minahassers of Celebes believe they are descended 
from a girl in primaeval days who was also fecundated 
by the West Wind. 2 The Aruntas of Central Australia 
still hold that a storm from the West sometimes brings 
evil 'ratapa', or child-germs, that seek to enter women; 
as the storm approaches, the women with a loud cry 
hasten to the shelter of their huts, for if they become 
impregnated in this fashion twins will result who will die 
shortly after their birth. 3 

Although this belief is more especially connected with 
the West Wind, other ones can on occasion display a 
similar activity. Thus in the Luang-Sermata group of islands 
in the Moluccas the origin of mankind is traced to a ( sky- 

1 Brinton: American Hero-Myths, 1882, p. 47. 

2 Schwarz : Internationales Archiv für Ethnographie, 1907, 
Jahrg. XVIII, S. 59. 

3 Strehlow: Die Aranda- und Loritja-Stämme in Zentralaustralien» 
1907, S. 14. 


woman ' who climbed down to earth and was impregnated 
by the South Wind; 1 her children had access to the sky 
until the Lord Sun forbade it, a belief the ontogenetic 
significance of which is evident. Again, in the Finnish 
national epic, Kalevala, the virgin Ilmatar is fructified by 
the East Wind and gives birth to the wizard Väinamöinen; 
appropriately enough, the latter not only invented the harp 
and discovered fire, but became the instructor of mankind 
in poetry and music. 2 In the similar legend of Luminu-ut 
current in Singapore and the Indian Archipelago 3 it is not 
stated which wind was responsible. In classical times this 
belief was especially connected with the Spring Wind, 
Zephyrus or Flavonius, who, for instance, begot Euphrosyne 
with Aurora, and it is highly probable that the Floralia 
included a worship of this wind as well as of flowers; 
Ovid 4 describes how Chloris, called Flora by the Romans, 
was ravished by Zephyr. Widespread also are the traditions 
of whole regions — particularly islands — the inhabitants of 
which are descended from the wind, or whose women 
conceive only in this way. In early classical times the latter 
belief was entertained in regard to Cyprus, and only last 
Century the inhabitants of Lampong, in Sumatra, believed 
the same of the neighbouring island of Engano. 5 Mohammedan 
tradition teils of a pre-Adamite race consisting entirely of 
women, who conceived (daughters only) by the wind, and 
also of an island of women thus peopled. 6 The Binhyas of 

1 Riedel : De Sluik- en Kroesharige Rassen tusschen Selebes en 
Papua, 1886, p. 312. 

2 Abercromby : The Pre- and Proto-historic Finns, 1898, Vol. I, 
pp. 316, 318, 322. 

3 Bab : Zeitschrift für Ethnologie, 1906, Jahrg. XXXVIII, S. 280. 

4 Ovid : Fasti, v, 195-202. 

5 Marsden: The History of Sumatra, 181 1, p. 297. 

6 L'Abr^gö des Merveilles. Translated from the Arabian by De 
Vaux, 1898, pp. 17, 71. 


India also claim descent from the wind. 1 In an interesting 
poem by Eduard Mörike entitled 'Jung Volkers Lied/ the 
connection is clearly indicated between the belief in question 
and the tendency to repu diäte the male sex; it is probable 
that all these beliefs in miraculous conception spring from 
the boy's desire to exclude the father from anything to 
do with his birth: 

Und die mich trug im Mutterleib, 
Und die mich schwang im Kissen, 
Die war ein schön frech braunes Weib, 
Wollte nichts vom Mannsvolk wissen. 

Sie scherzte nur und lachte laut 
Und ließ die Freier stehen: 
' Möcht' lieber sein des Windes Braut, 
Denn in die Ehe gehen! ' 

Da kam der Wind, da nahm der Wind 

Als Buhle sie gefangen: 

Von dem hat sie ein lustig Kind 

In ihren Schoß empfangen. 2 

1 Saintyves : Les Vierges Meres, 1908, p. 143. 

2 And she who bore me as a child 
Who rocked my cradle then, 
She was a fine brawn lass so wild 
That would know nought of men. 

She only scoffed and laughed beside, 
And left the men alone, 
Td rather be the wild wind's bride 
Than marry anyone.' 

The wind he came, the wind so wild, 
Bride was she, he the groom, 
By him she got a merry child, 
A boy child in her womb. 


As is quite comprehensible, the same belief was by 
analogy also extended y to animals. Freud 1 has reminded 
us of the ancient belief that vultures were, like the inhabi- 
tants of the islands just referred to, all female, and that 
they conceived by exposing their genitals to the wind; so 
accepted was this that Origen appealed to it in support 
of the credibility of Jesus Christ's virgin birth. Nor was 
the vulture the only bird that has been supposed to 
conceive in this way; in Samoa the same thing was related 
of snipe, 2 and both Aristotle 3 and Pliny 4 teil us that par- 
tridges can be fecundated when merely Standing opposite 
to the male, provided that the wind is blowing from him 
to her. 5 St Augustine 6 gravely relates how the mares in 
Cappadocia are fertilised by the wind, Virgil 7 says the 
same of the mares of Boaetia, and Pliny 8 of those of 
Lusitania. In more modern times this ancient belief is found 
only in the form of poetic analogy, such as in the following 
passage from Shakespeare: 9 

When we have laugh'd to see the sails conceive, 
And grow big-bellied with the wanton wind; 
Which she, with pretty and with swimming gait 
Following, (her womb then rieh with my young squire) 
Would imitate, and sail upon the land. 

1 Freud: Eine Kindheitserinnerung des Leonardo da Vinci, 
1910, S. 25. 

2 Sierich : 'Samoanische Märchen', Internat. Arch. für Ethno- 
graphie, Bd. XVI, S. 90. 

3 Aristotle: Hist. Anim., v, 4. 

4 Pliny: Hist. Nat., x, 51. 

5 See also Plutarch : Moralia, Lib. VIII, Art. i, Par. 3. 

6 St Augustinus: Civ. Dei, xxi, 5. 

7 Virgil: Georgics, iii, 266-76. 

8 Pliny: op. cit., viii, 67. 

9 Shakespeare: A Midsummer Night' s Dream, Act II, Sc. 2, 1. 69. 


Not only have the life-bringing powers been ascribed 
to the outer air, usually in the form of wind, but this has 
been extensively identified with the principle of life and 
creation altogether. Something will be said later of the 
enormous part it has played in Indian and Greek philosophy, 
where it has been exalted to the rank of the breath and 
essence of God himself, the fundamental substratum of all 
material and spiritual existence, the source of all life and 
activity, the first principle of the universe, and so on. A 
glance at the extraordinary mass of material collected by 
Frazer 1 on the subject of 'The Magical Control of the 
Wind* is enough to shew the astonishing significance of 
the idea in anthropology and folk-lore. There remain in 
modern times many examples of this over-estimation of the 
idea, particularly in poetry, of which the following may be 
quoted from Shelley's 4 Ode to the West Wind \ in which 
also the association between wind, birth, fire, thoughts, and 
words, which will presently be discussed, is well indicated: 

Be thou, Spirit fierce, 
My spirit! Be thou me, impetuous one! 
Drive my dead thoughts over the universe 
Like withered leaves to quicken a new birth! 
And, by the incantation of this verse, 
Scatter, as from an unextinguished hearth 
Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind! 

The question why various beliefs in the fertilising 
power of the wind get attached, now to the wind from 
one cardinal point, now to another, cannot be completely 
answered without a special study. It is piain that a number 
of different determining factors enter into the matter. For 

1 Frazer: The Magic Art, 1911, Vol. I, pp. 319-31. 


instance, it was believed in Thuringia 1 to be advantageous 
to sow barley when the West Wind was blowing, and 
one gets a clue to the meaning of this on learning further 
that the sowing should be done on a Wednesday, i. e. on 
Odin's day, since Odin, probably for reasons to do with 
the setting sun, had special connections with the west. 
A very general factor in the localising of the belief is its 
association with winds of a warm, moist, and 'relaxing' 
character, which commonly induce a more or less lascivious 
mood: a good example is the ' Föhnfieber * in Switzerland, 
which is certainly a form of sexual excitation. All agencies 
leading to sexual excitation are readily identified, especially 
in the Unconscious, with a fertilising principle. As winds 
of this character prevailingly blow from the west or south- 
west over the chief part of Europe, it is not surprising 
that in this region most of the beliefs in question are 
related to it. In confirmation of this supposition is the fact 
that the opposite type of wind, the East Wind, is popularly 
credited with the contrary effect. There is a saying among 
German sailors which runs (in Plattdeutsch) as follows: 2 
4 Oste-Wind makt krus den Buedel un kort den Pint\ ( ( The 
East Wind makes the scrotum crinkled and the penis short'.) 
It is nowadays generally recognised, since the belief 
in mankind's primary interest in physical geography has 
been largely discredited, that all this significance attaching 
to the idea of wind must have arisen mainly through a 
projection outward of thoughts and feelings concerning the 
air in immediate connection with man's body. In accord 
with this view is the fact that the beliefs just mentioned 
concerning the sexual activities of the wind can be exten- 
sively paralleled by similar ones relating to the breath. One 

1 Witzschel: Sagen, Sitten und Gebräuche aus Thüringen, 1878, 
Bd. II, S. 215. 

2 Private communication from Dr. Karl Abraham. 


or two of these may be added to those already cited. The 
Delphi priestess in her love-embrace with Apollo was filled 
with his breath, which the God poured into her. In an 
early Mexican picture 1 a man and woman are represented 
as having intercourse by mingling their breath. 

On the basis, therefore, of present-day views on 
mythology, which do not need to be expounded here, 2 
we may assume that the idea of breath is primary to that 
of wind, and that the beliefs just related concerning the 
latter may be taken as some index of how important the 
former has been in anthropological history. That, however, 
the idea of another personal gas is still more primary than 
that of breath is a thesis that an attempt will be made to 
substantiate in the following pages. 

2. Sound 

In the description of a fertilising principle or of the 
Creative Being himself sound may occur either alone, when 
it is plainly a symbol, or as the most prominent attribute 
of some other phenomenon. A clear example of the former 
is the 'Last Trump', which is to wake the dead from 
their sleep and call them to eternal life. This motif also 
plays a part in the various miracles of raising people from 
the dead; it is indicated for instance in a picture by 
Bronzino (in the Santa Maria Novella, Florence) representing 
the raising of Jairus' daughter, in which an angel Stands 
at the side blowing a trumpet. Another example of the 
significance of sound, where the sexual meaning comes to 
open expression, is afforded by a cameo, dated 1294, in 

1 Reproduced by Seier : ' Tierbilder der mexikanischen und 
Maya-Handschriften ', Zeitschr. f. Ethnologie, Bd. XLII, S. 67. 

2 See Rank and Sachs : Die Bedeutung der Psychoanalyse für die 
Geisteswissenschaften, 191 3, Kapitel II. 


the Florence Bargello, in which a satyr blowing a trumpet 
surprises a sleeping bacchante. 

In the second type, where sound is merely one of 
the prominent features, the phenomenon is perhaps most 
often conceived of in the form of wind. In the Old 
Testament the voice of God is described by Ezekiel (iii. 12) 
as 'a great rushing', and in the account of the advent of 
the Holy Ghost given in the Acts of the Apostles (ii. 2) 
we read: 'And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, 
as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house 
where they were sitting\ Similarly the South American 
Indians worshipped 'Hurrakan', 'the mighty wind', a name 
supposed to be cognate with our word 'hurricane', and 
the natives of New Zealand regarded the wind as a special 
indication of God's presence; 1 with this may be compared 
the Australian fear, mentioned above, of the impregnating 
storm, the idea of 'FaÜier' being common to both. 
Even in modern times tempests have been regarded as 
representing God in a dangerous mood, while in all ages 
the creating of storms and thunder, has been considered a 
special prerogative of the Deity (Odin, Thor, Yahweh, 
Zeus, etc.). 

A Chinese myth 2 relates how Hoang-Ty, or Hiong, 
the founder of civilisation, was born of a virgin, Ching- 
Mou, and thunder. The mythology of thunder is much too 
extensive to be considered here, but attention should be 
called to the close association between the ideas of 
'thunder' and 'father\ one, indeed, which applies to the 
whole group under discussion. The Phrygian precursor of Zeus 
was called both Papas (= Father) and Bronton (= Thunderer). 

1 Taylor: Te Ika a Maui, or New Zealand and its Inhabitants, 
Second Edition, 1870, p. 181. 

2 De Primäre: Vestiges des principaux dogmes chrdtiens, 1878, 
P. 433. 


Frazer 1 has shewn how extensive has been the connection 
between Kings and thunder, and has made it probable 
that the early Roman kings imitated Jupiter's powers in 
this respect; it is well known that psychologically the idea 
of king is equivalent to that of father. The old Indian God 
of Thunder and of Procreation, Parjanya, was represented 
in the form of a bull, 2 a typical patriarchal symbol. That 
the idea of thunder is exceedingly apt, in dreams and 
other products of the unconscious phantasy, to symbolise 
flatus, particularly paternol flatus, is well known to all 
psycho-analysts; such psycho-neurotic Symptoms as bronte- 
phobia are almost constantly related to unconscious thoughts 
concerning this, and in obscene jests the as sociation is 
at least as old as Aristophanes. 3 

The association Father — God — Sound has always been 
a remarkably close one, and the following description of 
Zeus in this respect would hold good for the majority of 
Gods: c He gave his oracles through the voices of winds 
moaning and rustling in his sacred oak grove amidst the 
murmur of falling waters and the clangor of bronzen vessels 
Struck by wind-moved hammers.' 4 By a characteristically 
human reasoning process it was assumed that supernatural 
beings, including God himself, could be influenced by 
sounds, of any kind, and this device has been widely 
employed in connection with both the purposes for which 
it was desired to attract the attention, and influence the 
conduct, of the Divine Being. The beating of tom-toms in 
African villages to frighten away evil spirits, and the similar 
Norse procedure to prevent the sun from being swallowed 
at the time of an eclipse, may be cited as examples of 

1 Frazer: op. cit, Vol. II, pp. 180-3. 

2 Rigveda (Griffith's Translation), Vol. II, p. 299. 

3 Aristophanes: Clouds, Act V, Sc. 2. Bpovri) Kai jropSfj, öfxoia). 

4 Cotterill: Ancient Greece, 1913, p. 58. 


the one kind; in Greece also, loud noises were considered 
especially effective as apotropaic measures against the 
malign influences of evil demons. By the side of this Luther's 
Statement 1 may be recalled, according to which the devil 
is to be driven away through the efficacy of the passage 
of flatus. 

On the other hand, sounds, especially in the form of 
hymn-singing and music, have been, and still are, favourite 
means of intercession to obtain benefits from the Deity. 
A hymn called 'haha' (= breath), an invocation to the mystic 
wind, is pronounced by Maori priests on the initiation of 
young men. 2 The instrument called the 'bull-roarer', 
4 bummer, or 'buzzer' is said by Haddon 3 to be the most 
ancient, widely-spread, and sacred religious symbol in the 
world. It consists of a slab of wood which, when tied to 
a piece of string and rapidly whirled around, emits a 
roaring, uncanny noise. It is still used in Mexico, Ceylon, 
British Columbia, New Zealand, the Malay Peninsula, New 
Guinea, Africa, and Australia. 4 Under the name of the 
rhombus it figured prominently in the Dionysian mysteries 
in Ancient Greece, and Pettazoni 5 has recently pointed out 
that the 'rombo* still survives in modern Italy. It is used 
sometimes to invoke the presence and aid of the Deity, 
sometimes to drive away evil spirits. A study of the various 
beliefs surrounding it shews that the three main ideas with 
which its use is associated are: (1) thunder and wind, 

1 Schurig: Chylologia, 1725, p. 795; See also Les Propos de Table 
de Luther, Trad. franc. par Brunet, 1846, p. 22. 

2 Andrew Lang: Custom and Myth, 1884, P- 36. 

3 Haddon: The Study of Man, 1898, p. 327. 

4 Frazer gives numerous references to it in the different volumes 
of his Golden Bough. See also Marett, Hibbert Journal, Jan. 1910, and 
Bouvaine, Journal of the Anthropologie al Institute, Vol. II, p. 270. 

5 Pettazoni: 'Soppravvivenze del rombo in ItahV, Lares, 191 2, 
Vol. I, p. 63. 


(2) reproduction (vegetation cults, initiation ceremonies, 
danger if seen by women, etc.), (3) ancestor worship (i. e. 
Father) — in other words, ideas that take a prominent part 
in the theme under discussion here. There is naturally a 
close connection between bull-roarers and thunder-weapons 
in general, which have played an important part in religious 
rites in most parts of the world except Egypt; 1 the hammer 
of Thor, the trident of Poseidon, the trisula of Siva, and 
the keraunos of Zeus are a few of the many variants of 
it the phallic significance of which is evident. In short, 
there are innumerable connections between the idea of 
thunder on the one hand and ideas of paternal power, 
particularly reproductive power, on the other, a conclusion 
reached long ago by Schwartz 2 and in füll accord with the 
conclusions of Abraham 3 and Kuhn 4 on the sexual sym- 
bolism of lightning. 

In ancient times it was believed that the young of 
lions were born dead and that they were awakened into 
life through the roaring of their sire; this is given as one 
of the reasons why in the Resurrection Jesus was some- 
times represented as a lion, the space of three days being 
also common to the two beliefs. It may be paralleled by 
the belief mentioned by Pliny, 5 that a female partridge 
can be impregnated merely from hearing the cry of the 
male. The general importance of the voice in love-making 
is well known to biologists. With many animals, e. g. deer, 
most birds, etc., the love-call of the mate is one of the 
strongest means of attraction, and even with human beings 

1 See Blinkenberg; The Thunderweapon in Religion and Folklore, 

2 Schwartz: Wolken und Wind, Blitz und Donner, 1879, S. 186. 

3 Abraham: Traum und Mythus, 1909. 

4 Kuhn: Über die Herabkunft des Feuers und des Götter- 
tranks, 1859. 

5 Pliny: op. cit, x, 51. 


the voice, in both speaking and singing, 1 has by no means 
lost this primitive effect. 

From the sound of the voice it is an easy transition 
to the idea of Speech. The sexual relationships of speech 
are made piain in every psycho-analysis of neurotic Symptoms 
in which this function is implicated; Stammering, self- 
consciousness concerning speech, and so on. It has been 
dwelt on by many writers. Sperber 2 has made out a 
powerful case for the view that speech originated as a 
development of the love-call excitation accompanying the 
search for symbolic sexual gratification. In mythology and 
folk-lore the function of speech is often treated as equivalent 
to loving or living, just as its opposite, dumbness, signifies 
impotence or death; an example of the latter symbolism 
is to be found in the New Testament story where, to 
emphasise the supernatural nature of John the Baptist's 
conception, the earthly father (Zacharias) is said to have 
been dumb ( = impotent) from just before the conception 
until just after the birth. 

1 That infantile interest for the sound accompanying the passage 
of flatus may be transferred in later life to the subject of nmsic was 
first pointed out by Ferenczi (ZentralbL f. Psychoanalyse, Jahrg. I, 
S. 395, Anm. 1). The resemblance between the German words 'fisteln' 
(=to sing falsetto) , and 'fisten' (= to pass flatus) is certainly in accord 
with this finding. One may in this connection recall the fact that Hermes 
was God, not only of music, but also of winds, speech, and money. 
(The anal-erotic association between money, gas, and intestinal contents 
is indicated by many expressions in English. Thus new words 
are 'coined', while new coins are 'uttered'. 'To stink of money ' 
is to be over-wealthy. 'To raise the wind' is slang for 'to obtain 
money', just as 'to cough up money' is for parting unwillingly with it. 
'To have a blow-out' means to have a good meal, while 'to blow' 
money is to spend it extravagantly; the latter expression is often, 
through confusion with the past tense 'blew', corrupted to 'to blue 
money '.) 

2 Sperber: 'Über den Einfluß sexueller Momente auf die Entstehung 
der Sprache', Itnago, 1912, Bd. I, S. 405. 


Speech was therefore quite naturally considered to be 
identical with God, i. e. the Creator, and the doctrine of 
the Logos has played a prominent part in most of the 
higher religions. One need only recall the familiär passages 
in St. John (i. i and i. 14): 4 In the beginning was the Word, 
and the Word was with God, and the Word was God ' ; ' And the 
Word was made flesh' (embodiment of Jesus Christ). He also 
relates of his vision of the Being on a White Horse that ( his 
name is called the Word of God' (Apocalypse xix. 13). 
God seems to have selected with preference mere speech 
as the means of carrying out his wishes, for instance in 
the Creation itself ('And God said, Let there be light; 
and there was light', etc.). The association between the 
Holy Ghost and speech was just as intimate: the saints 
'spoke by the Holy Ghost' (St. Mark xii. 36; Acts of the 
Apostles xiii. 2; xvi. 7), or were 'filled by the Holy Ghost 
and prophesied' (St. Luke i. 67), while St. Paul pointedly 
says that 'no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by 
the Holy Ghost' (1 Corinthians xii. 3). 

The sexual equivalency of the idea of speech, or word, 
comes to especially clear expression in the very legend 
under discussion. From a number of passages in the 
writings of the early Fathers that bear this out I will quote 
two only: St. Zeno 1 writes, 'The womb of Mary swells 
forth with pride, not by conjugal gift, but by faith; by the 
Word, not by seed', and St. Eleutherius, 2 ( blessed 
Virgin . . . made mother without Cooperation of man. For 
here the ear was the wife, and the angelic word the 
husband'. The Virgin's conception has been constantly 
contrasted by ecclesiastical writers with the fall of Eve, 

1 St. Zeno; Lib. ii, Tractatus viii and ix, Pat. Lat, Tom. II, 

p. 413. 

2 St. Eleutherius Tornacensis: Serm, in Annunt. Fest., Tom. 65, 

p. 96. 


' the second Eve ' being a very usual designation for Mary. 
The following passage, from St. Ephrem/ is typical of 
many: 'In the beginning the serpent, getting possession of 
the ears of Eve, thence spread his poison throughout her 
whole body; to-day Mary through her ears received the 
champion of everlasting bliss.' It is now generally recog- 
nised 2 that the myth of the Fall in Eden represents an 
expurgated version of a fertilisation myth, so that such 
passages as the one just quoted must be simply regarded 
as expressing the contrast between forbidden and allowed 
sexual union, as typified by Eve and Mary. 

It is thus piain that at least some of the significance 
attaching to the idea of speech has arisen in psychosexual 
affects, and the next question is, in which specific ones? 
I have elsewhere 3 indicated the probable answer to this — 
namely, the acts of breathing and speaking are both treated 
in the Unconscious as equivalents of the act of passing 
intestinal flatus, and a corresponding displacement of affect 
is brought about from the latter idea to the former ones. 
Indications of this association are still preserved in such 
expressions as 'poetic afflatus', 'clat-fart' (Staffordshire 
dialect for 'gossip'), ' flatulent speech', ( a windy discourse', 
and the contemptuous slang phrases for this, 'gas 1 (English) 
and ( hot air' (American). The word 'ventriloquism' (literally 
'belly-speaking', German Bateckreden) is noteworthy in the 
same connection, and it is of interest that Ferenczi 4 has 

1 St. Ephrem: De Divers. Serm., I, p. 607. See also St. Fulgentius ; 
De laude Mariae ex partu Salvatoris; St. Zeno: Ad Pulcheriam 
Augustam, etc. 

2 See, for instance, Otto Rank: ZentralbL f. Psychoanalyse, 
Jahrg. II, S. 389, and Ludwig Levy: * Sexualsymbolik in der biblischen 
Paradiesgeschichte ', Imago, 1917-19, Bd. V, S. 16. 

3 jfak7'buck der Psychoanalyse, lQl2 y Bd. IV, S. 588, 594. 

4 Ferenczi: Contributions to Psycho-Analysis (Engl. TransL), 1916, 
p. 179. 



shewn that during analysis the suppression of a remark 
may be betrayed by a rumbling in the stomach. 

Nor is it without significance that of the five Pränas 
(the sacred breaths in the Vedas) it is the Apäna, or 
down-breathing, that is the one associated with speech. 1 

3. Invisibility and Fluidity 

These attributes favour the occurrence of the interest- 
ing association between the idea of Thought and the group 
under consideration. Thought is usually imagined as 
something flowing; one thinks of such expressions as 4 he 
poured out his thoughts', 'his thoughts ceased to flow', etc., 
and every psychologist is familiär with William James' 
famous chapter on 'The Stream of Consciousness'. The 
ideas of breath, speech and thought are symbolic equivalents, 
and are all unconsciously associated with that of intestinal 
gas. 2 I have elsewhere 3 brought forward reasons for think- 
ing that the unconscious belief in the omnipotence of 
thought {Allmacht der Gedanken), which lies at the root 
of animism and magic, may be related to this association 
with the idea of creative power, just as most concrete 
emblems of power (sceptre, sword, cross, staff, etc.) are 
well-recognised phallic symbols. The notion of thought as 
a begetter also occurs, e. g. in the myth of Athene's birth 
out of the brain of Zeus. There are frequent reports of 
nuns in the middle ages who professed to be pregnant 
because Jesus had thought of them. 

We thus see how the Unconscious conceives of the 
Mind, regarded as an objective phenomenon. In the Vedic 

1 Khändogya-Upanishad, iii, 13, 8. 

2 This association is also illustrated in the case already referred 
to and its relation to the idea of 'auto-suggestion' expounded. 

3 Internationale Zeitschrift für Psychoanalyse, 191 3, Bd. L, S. 429. 
See also Eisler, International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, ig2i y Vo\Al. y 
p. 255 et seq. 


literature 1 the mind is said to be cognate with the Vyäna, 
or back-going breath, while in another of the Upanishads 2 
we read that the Seif consists of speech, mind, and breath, 
and that the Seif should be consoled in sacrificing the 
desire for a wife by remembering that 'mind is the husband, 
speech the wife, and breath the child'. 3 Similarly for the 
Neo-Platonist Plotinus the world-soul is the energy of the 
intellect and is begotten by the intellect, the father, just 
as Athene, the Goddess of Wisdom, sprang from the brain 
of her father. In quoting the following passage from him, 
4 That which lies closed together in the intellect attains 
füll development as the Logos in the world-soul, falls this 
with meaning and, as it were, makes it drunk with nectar', 
Jung 4 comments: 'Nectar, like soma, is the drink of fertility 
and life, i. e. sperma\ Diogenes 5 also identified the intellect 
with air; he maintained that air has intelligence, and that 
human beings are intelligent in virtue of the air that enters 
in from without. The latter Statement is perhaps a highly 
sublimated expression of the infantile sexual theory described 
earlier in this essay. 

From the ideas of thought and the mind it is but a 
step to that of the Soul, and we shall see that the same 
group of affects have extensively influenced this concept 
also. Of the primitive conceptions of the soul, 6 the lower 
(we do not say the primary) is that of the 'bound soul', 
which was imagined as the vital principle of various internal 
organs, and was evidently little eise than a symbolisation 
of the vital essence, i. e. sperma. (We are not here con- 

1 Taittiriyaka-Upanishad, i, 7, 1. 

2 Brihadäranyaka-Upanishad, i, 5, 3. 

3 ibid., i, 4, 17. 

4 Jung: Jahrbuch der Psychoanalyse, 191 2, Bd. IV, S. 179. 

5 See Brett: A History of Psychology: Ancient and Patristic, 
1912, p. 46. 

6 See Wundt: op. cit, S. 1, et seq. 



cerned with the motives or forces that led mankind to 
conceive the idea of a soul, a matter on which Freud 1 has 
thrown considerable light, but simply with the original 
content out of which this idea was constructed.) If sexual 
thoughts played such a prominent part in this crude 
conception of the soul it is reasonable to expect that they 
have also been operative, though perhaps in a more 
disguised manner, in regard to the more elaborate ones, 
and this we find to have been so. The most important 
part of the concept 'Free Soul* is that known as the 
'Breath Soul' {Hauchseele), and it is easy to shew that 
the idea of this belongs to the group under consideration. 
The evidence for the far-reaching association between the 
ideas of soul and breath is so familiär that it need not 
be recounted here; we are constantly reminded of it by 
the very names for the former, from the Greek 'psyche' 
and the Hebrew 'nephesh' to the German 'Geist' and the 
English 'ghost' and 'spirit'. The fact that all these words 
originally meant simply 'breath' also indicates that the 
latter was the primary idea of the two, which is indeed 
evident from every point of view, and that we have here 
a typical example of displacement of significance. 

There are at least two reasons for suspecting that 
the affects here concerned did not all originate in the idea 
of breath even, but in a still deeper one — namely, in that 
of intestinal gas. These are, that in the first place the 
affects and psychical significance which have been attached 
to the idea of breath, or air or wind, were disproportionate to 
the inherent psychical importance of the idea and so must 
have been derived from one of greater psychical significance 
(such as flatus indubitably is in infantile life and in the 
adult Unconscious), and that in the second place numerous 

1 Totem und Tabu, 191 3, Kap. IV. 


direct connections can be indicated between the idea of 
intestinal gas and the conception of the Breath-Soul. 

* The first argument, put in other words, is that, if a 
mass of feeling flowed over from the idea of breath to 
that of the soul greater in quantity than the amount inherently 
belonging to the former, then it follows that this idea must 
have acted, in part at least, merely as a carrier. Now it 
is not hard to shew that the significance attached to the 
ideas of wind, air, soul, and breath have been much greater 
than what might be explicable from the primary psychical 
importance of the last-named of these, omitting of course 
its secondary importance as an emblem of life and creation. 
Confining ourselves solely to Hindoo and Greek philosophy, 
and taking first the former, we note the following beliefs 
and Statements in the Upanishads alone. Präna (breath) is 
identified on the one hand with Brähman, the Supreme 
Being, and on the other with Ätmafi, the primary essence 
of the Universe. 1 The origin of the latter is thus described: 
From Atman came the Other, from this the wind, from 
this the fire, from this water, and from water came earth; 
thus the primary four of the series are expressed in terms 
of a gas. It is unnecessary to cite any further examples, 
but it may be said that by far the greater part of this 
whole literature is taken up with this theme, the ideas of 
breath, wind, and so on, being described in the most 
exalted language imaginable. 

Similarly if we turn to Greece we find that the same group 
of ideas forms a central startingpoint for a great part, probably 
the greater part, of the views on philosophy, medicine, psycho- 
logy, andgeneral Weltanschauung. Many of the earlier monists, 
including Anaximenes, posited air as their dpXi), and the 
continued existence of the world was explained by a process 

1 Deussen: op. cit, pp. 110, 194. 


of cosmic respiration, 1 the conception of which was based 
in detail on that of bodily respiration. Heidel, in a specially 
careful study, 2 has further shewn that the various atomic 
theories of the Greeks can principally be traced to their 
views about the act of breathing. 3 Diogenes, in taking air 
as the most important element in the world, plainly says 
that the necessity of breath for life is the reason why air 
is chosen as the primary reality; the interaction between 
air in the body and the air outside is the type of all vital 
action. 4 With the Stoics also, 5 the pneuma was of cardinal 
importance: it was the breath of life, the warm air closely 
associated with the blood, the vital principle transmitted 
in generation, and at the same time the soul, which is 
contained in the body and yet is one in nature with the 
surrounding World-Soul. 6 The part played by the idea of 
breath in moulding the Greek conception of the soul is 
too familiär to need insisting on. The influence of this 
conception extended far into Christian times: Clement of 
Alexandria, for instance, as well as Tertullian, maintained 
that the 'rational soul', which is directly imparted by God 
to man, is identical with that ( breath of God ' 7 mentioned 

1 Heidel: 'Antecedents of the Greek Corpuscular Theories', 
Harvard Studies in Classic al Philo logy, 191 1, Vol. XXII, pp. 137-40. 

2 Heidel: op. cit, pp. 11 1-72. 

3 It is interesting to note that the highest achievements of modern 
physical science, the atomic theory and the conception of ether, both 
of which were anticipated in Greek philosophy, represent in both cases 
sublimated projections of the complex under discussion. 

4 Brett: op. cit, pp. 45, 46. 

5 Brett: op. cit., pp. 166, 167. 

6 It is clear that the idea of ( cosmic consciousness ', of which we 
hear so much in modern pseudo-philosophy, is psychologically equivalent 
to ideas concerning the outer air, which have been projected from 
more personal sources. 

7 The Hebrew 'mach' denoted both the human soul and the 
breath of God. 


in Genesis, in contradistinction to the 'irrational soul\ 
which is akin to the life-principle of animals. The latter 
belief may profitably be compared with the Indian one 
mentioned above (p. 275) concerning the two breaths, upper 
and lower in a moral as well as in a physical sense, and 
the juxtaposition here of animal and divine opens up the 
whole topic of repression. 

The pneuma concept was also one of the highest 
significance in Greek medicine and retained much of its 
importance until about a Century ago, gradually fading 
away via the doctrine of 'humour' and 'diathesis'; its 
memory is perpetuated in such expressions as 'to be in a 
bad humour , , 'in good spirits'. All causes of disease other 
than those relating to food and drink were summarised 
under the generic term 'air\ a pernicious relic of which 
attitude we still retain in the almost universal superstition 
that draughts are dangerous to health (not to mention the 
special risks ascribed to specific forms of air such as 
'night air', 'damp air', air coming through holes, etc.), 
and the therapeutic value ascribed to a 'change of air', 
or a 'change of climate' was even greater than that 
obtaining in our own days. 1 For centuries most physicians 

1 One should also think of the excessive significance which is 
still attached by many people to respiratory exercises. In the description 
of my patient referred to above there are some beautiful examples of 
the mystical application of these. Nor can orthodox medicine be entirely 
exempted from this reproach; I may cite the following examples taken 
at random from a medical catalogue: 

1. Fletcher: The Law of the Rhythmic Breath, Teaching the 
Generation, Conservation and Control of Vital Force. 

2. Arnulphy: La Sante par la science de la respiration. (La 
respiration est un des principaux proceMös au moyen desquels 
on arrive ä dövelopper sa force magnetique, sa volonte.) 

3. Durville: Pour combattre la peur, la crainte, l'anxietö, la 
timidit6, developper la volonte^ gu^rir ou soulager certaines 
maladies par la Respiration Profonde. 


were attached to one or other school of philosophy, and 
the most important group were those constituting the school 
of Pneumatists, vvho subscribed to the Stoic doctrines; 
physiology and philosophy thus exerted a mutual influence 
on each other. The pneuma coursed through the entire 
body, regulated nutrition, generated thought and semen, 1 
and, according to Aristotle, conveyed to the heart the 
movements of Sensation that had been transmitted to it 
from without through the medium of the sense organsj on 
the state of it depended the health of the individual. An 
interesting example of the strength of the pneuma doctrine 
was the way in which it was able totally to obscure the 
significance of the discovery of the nerves, 2 it being 
insisted, in spite of all the evidence to the contrary, that 
these were merely ramifications of the pneuma-carrying 
arteries; even later, when the relation of the nerves to the 
brain and to muscular action had been established, Augustine 
maintained that they were tubes of air which transmitted 
to the limbs the actions commanded by the will. The 
following passages from Brett 3 well illustrate the general 
significance of the pneuma doctrine: 'To one who thinks 
of the body as irrigated throughout by air, who attributes 
the cause of pulsation to the shock of air meeting blood, 
who moreover feels dimly that man is in direct connexion 
with the whole universe through the continuity of this air, 

1 The view was, for instance, expressed that Hephaistos took the 
form of pneuma that coursed through the arteries of Zeus to his brain 
and thus led him to generate thought, i. e. to procreate Athene. (See 
Creuzer: Symbolik und Mythologie, 2e Aufl., 1819-1823, Bd. II, 
S. 763 et seq.) 

2 Brett (op. cit, p. 284) gives a striking description of the pre- 
judices due to the tenaciousness with which the pneuma doctrine was 
held, and of the difficulty with which these were overcome before the 
value of the discovery could be properly appreciated. 

3 Brett: op. cit, pp. 52, 53. 


the importance of this factor must have assumed the 
greatest proportions.' 

There is abundant evidence to shew that the idea of 
breath could not have been by any means the sole source 
of this series of doctrines, readily as this seems generally 
to be assumed. Proceeding first with the Greek views, we 
note two considerations : that the pneuma was not always 
brought into connection with breath as one would have 
expected from the current opinion, and further that their 
conception of respiration was a singularly broad one, many 
processes being included under this term besides that of 
breathing. Aristotle, for example, positively states that the 
pneuma of the body, the importance of which we have 
just noted, is not derived from the breath, but is a secretion 
resulting from processes going 011 within the body itself 
(primarily in the intestine), and Galen says, even more 
explicitly, that the psychic pneuma is derived in part from 
the vapours of digested food. 1 This association, which 
appears to be still active in the Unconscious, is also 
embodied in our daily speech : we talk of ' expressing our 
thoughts', of being given 'food for thought', and so on. 
It would seem possible that the association has played 
some part in the development of certain forms of mate- 
rialistic philosophy; one is Struck, for instance, by the 
simile employed in such dicta as that of Cabanis, ( the 
brain secretes thought as the liver secretes bile '. We see 
an interesting revival of this attitude in the current mate- 
rialistic trends of present-day psychiatry, which would 
derive the greater part of mental disorder from toxins due 
to intestinal disturbances — quite logically, if this organ were 
the source of thought, as the Greeks believed; the total 
absence of any evidence in support of this aetiology makes 
no difference to the belief in it. 

1 Brett: op. cit, pp. 118, 291. 


In the second place, a little study of the accounts 
given by various writers makes it piain that the Greeks 
thought of the respiratory and alimentary Systems as being 
throughout closely connected, 1 which is the main point we 
are trying here to establish. On the one hand respiration 
was not restricted to breathing, but included also Per- 
spiration (a perfectly scientific view), while on the other 
hand respiration was regarded as a variety of nutrition, 
which indeed it is. They not only identified the absorption 
of air, its subsequent changes within the body, and its 
final excretion, 2 with those of food, but ascribed to the 
influence of the former the process whereby the latter 
becomes sufficiently rarefied to be carried over the body; 
the underlying idea, with of course many modifications, 
seems to have been that the inspired air reached the 
stomach, either through the blood stream or through the 
Oesophagus (which they believed led to the heart), and 
there digested the food, the internal pneuma being the 
product of this, and thus representing a combination of 
air and food. From this point of view it is clear that 
pneuma was not merely a symbolic equivalent of intestinal 
gas, but was actually and grossly identical with it. The 
world-wide belief that the soul escapes through the mouth 3 
probably refers, therefore, to ideas concerning not only the 
respiratory System, but the alimentary one also; this con- 
clusion is supported by the existence, among many tribes, 
of various precautions and taboos designed to prevent the 
escape of the soul through the mouth during eating. 4 

1 See Heidel: op. cit, pp. 13 1-7. 

2 Hippocrates in describing the foetus says that it draws in breath 
through the umbilical cord, and that when it is filled with breath this 
* breaks ', makes a passage for itself outward through the middle of the 
foetus, and in this way escapes. (See Heidel: op. cit, S. 135, 136). 

3 See Frazer: Taboo and the Perils of the Soul, 191 1, pp. 30-3. 

4 Frazer: op. cit, p. 116. 


Study of the Vedic literature shews that the con- 
ceptions of the Indian philosophers on this matter were 
fundamentally similar to those of the Greeks. They devoted 
an extraordinary attention to the subject of the five Pränas, 
or breaths, but the accounts given of these in the various 
passages are so overlapping that it is not alwäys easy to 
define the precise differences between them; in fact it is 
known that the definitions shifted to some ext^nt at 
differfent v periods. In spite of this, however, it is possible 
to determine the main outlines of the conceptions, and 
we may consider them in brder. Präna, the 'up-breathing', 
means essentially the breath proper. Where it Stands alone 
it frequently denotes the sense of smell, consequently 
inspiration, but sometimes when used in conjunction with 
Apäna it means expiration and the latter inspiration. 1 Apäna, 
the c down-breathing', though it also sometimes denotes 
smell and inspiration, usually means the wind of digestion 
residing in the bowels. It originates in the navel of the 
primaeval man. 2 It carries off the intestinal excrements; 3 it 
dwells in the bowels, 4 and presides over the organs of 
evacuation and generation. 5 The Vyäna, or 'back-going' 
breath, unites the breath proper to the wind of digestion, 6 
and courses through the blood-vessels. 7 The Samäna, or 
all-breathing, also unites the Präna to the Apäna, 8 and 

1 See Deussen : op. cit., pp. 276-9, where this matter is discussed 
in detail. 

2 Aitareya-Aranyaka, ii, 4, 1,6. (I refer throughout to the notation 
in Müller's edition.) 

3 ibid: ii, 4, 3, 2. Also Maiträyana-Upanishad, II, 6 and Garbha- 
Upanishad, I. 

4 Amritabindhu, 34. 

5 PrasiTa-Upanishad, iii, 5- 

6 Maiträyana-Upanishad, ii, 6. 

7 Prasna-Upanishad, iii, 6. 

8 Prasna-Upanishad, iv, 4. 


carries the food over the body. 1 These two last-mentioned 
breaths evidently make up together the Greek 'internal 
pneuma'. Finally the Udäna, the 'up- or out-breathing\ 
sometimes called the 'wind of exit', 2 dwells in the throat, 3 
and either brings up again or swallows down that which 
is eaten or drunk. 4 The Udäna, which evidently denotes 
gas regurgitating from a flatulent stomach, is an interesting 
counterpart to the Apäna, for while the latter is formally 
identified with death itself 5 the former carries away the 
soul from the body after death; 6 the connection between 
them is naturally a close one, since they both represent 
intestinal gas, which may escape either upwards or down- 
wards. The ideas of death and of intestinal decomposition 
are here, as so often, 7 brought near together, an additional 
explanation being thus afforded for the belief that the soul 
escapes from an alimentary orifice after death. 

Consideration of these accounts reveals the striking 
fact that four out of the five Pränas are much more closely 
related to the alimentary system than to the respiratory, 
being primarily concerned with the movement of food, 
either within the alimentary canal itself or in the body at 
large; even the fifth, the Präna in the narrowest sense, 
does not altogether dispense with this connection, for on 
the one hand it is doubly united to the Apäna (flatus) 
and on the other hand it has to do with the sense <?f 
smell, which biologically is nearly related to both sexuality 
and coprophilia. 

1 Maiträyana-Upanishad, ii, 6. Prasna-Upanishad, iii, 5. 

2 Vedäntasära, 97. 

3 Aimritabindhu, 34. 

4 Maiträyana-Upanishad, ii, 6. 

5 Aitareya-Aranyaka, ii, 4, 2, 4. 

6 Prasna-Upanishad, iii, 7. 

7 See chapter II, p. 101. 


It seems to me, therefore, a hardy venture for anyone 
who has reviewed the evidence just brought forward still 
to maintain that no other bodily gas than breath has played 
a part in developing the conception of the ( Breath-Soul\ 

4. Moisture 

It is well known that the idea of water has played 
an extraordinarily extensive part in anthropological symbolism, 
and especially in connection with the ideas of creation and 
birth. The symbolic significance of water is mainly derived 
from its unconscious equivalency with uterine fluid, urine,- 
and semen; it is probably the commonest symbol, both 
male and female, employed in birth phantasies. It is there- 
fore quite intelligible that the ideas of water and of gas 
should frequently be found in proximity in these phantasies, 
and that they should even be treated as symbolic equi- 
valents. A simple example is that in the myth of Prometheus, 
who created mankind out of water and sound. One nearer 
to the principal theme of this essay is that of the relation 
between the Holy Ghost and Baptism. In a previous essay 1 
I have tried to shew that the psychological symbolism of 
the baptismal rite signifies 'rebirth through purification', 
and that purification is an idea unconsciously equivalent to 
fertilisation. It is thus noteworthy that the two ideas of 
baptismal water and the Holy Ghost (in infantile terms, 
urine and gas) are frequently brought together in the New 
Testament in relation to the idea of re-birth. Jesus, in his 
reply to Nicodemus, says: 'Verily, verily, I say unto thee, 
Except ä man be born of water and of the Spirit, he 
cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born 
of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit 
is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be 

1 Chapter IV, p, 163. 


born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou 
hearest the sound thereof, but canst not teil whence it 
cometh, and whither it goeth; so is every one that is born 
of the Spirit* (St. John iii. 5 et seq.), and again, 'For John 
truly baptised with water; but ye shall be baptised with 
the Holy Ghost' (Acts i. 5). The replacement of the desire 
for earthly (i.e. incestuous) re-birth by that for spiritual 
re-birth is equivalent to the wish to be purified from sin, 
sin (of which incest is the great archetype) and death 
being opposed to re-birth and lifej St. Paul writes (Romans 
viii. 2): 'For the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus 
hath made me free from the law of sin and death \ 

The tertium comparationis between water and gas is 
evidently fluidity, and in the idea of vapour we get a fusion 
of the two. For this reason vapour has always played an 
important part in connection with the various topics discussed 
above, and the process of evaporation, whereby water is 
converted through vapour into gas, has extensively engaged 
the interest and attention of mankind. In Ancient Greece 
the Plutonia, Charonia, or hell-gates, where vapours issued 
from the earth, were sacred, because the exhalations were 
regarded as the spirits of the dead 1 (cp. the relation 
mentioned above between death and Apäna and Udäna). 
These spirits were looked to for increase of flocks and 
herds 2 and for the fruitfulness of the soil, while women 
worshipped them to obtain offspring. 3 Such beliefs are still 
current in Syria: 4 for example, at the Baths of Solomon 
in northern Palestine, blasts of hot air escape from the 
ground, and one of them, named Abu Rabah, is a fämous 

1 Rohde: Psyche, 6. Aufl., 1910, Bd. I, S. 213. Also Preller- 
Robert: Griechische Mythologie, Bd. I, S. 283, 811. 

2 Many passages in Dieterich : Mutter Erde, 1905. 

3 Rohde : op. cit., S. 297-9. 

4 Curtiss ; Primitive Semitic Religion To-Day, 1902, pp. 116 et seq. 


resort of childless wives who wish to satisfy their maternal 
longings; they let the hot air stream up over their bodies 
and really believe that children born to them after such 
a visit are begotten by the saint of the shrine. In ancient 
Italy issuing vapours were personified as a goddess, Mefitis > 
whose chief temple was in the valley of Amsanctus. The 
exhalations here, supposed to be the breath of Pluto 
himself, are known to consist of warm, noisy blasts of 
sulphuretted hydrogen 1 (i.e. had the odour of flatus); the 
association between intestinal functions and Pluto, the god 
of the lower world, is brought to our consciousness by 
the title of the well-known purgative, Pluto water! 

Heidel 2 says that 'probably no other natural phenomenon 
played so important a role in Greek philosophy as evapo- 
ration'. Rohde has abundantly shewn that to the Greeks 
the soul was essentially a vapour; 3 the later conception of 
the soul, however, for instance that of the Stoics, would 
seem to have been that of an invisible, gaseous medium 
which owed both its origin and its continued activities to 
the vapours, derived from the mixture of blood and air, 
that coursed through the body. The process of evaporation 
or distillation was evidently of cardinal importance in 
effecting this change from the material to the immaterial^ 
and thus helps to explain the significance attaching to 
bodily heat that brought it about, of which we shall 
speak later. From this point of view it is also easy to 
grasp Diogenes' notion that thought is an activity of 
dry air, that moisture is detrimental to thinking, and that 
excess of moisture is the reason why the young lack 

1 Frazer: Adonis, Attis, Osiris, 2nd Edition, 1907, p. 170. 

2 Heidel: op. cit, p. 122. See also Gilbert: Die meteorologischen 
Theorien des griechischen Altertums, 1907, S. 439 et seq. 

3 It may be mentioned that our word * breath* is cognate with 
the German Brodem (steam, odour). 


intelligence. 1 The same train of thought was applied to the life 
of the universe, cosmic respiration being imagined in terms 
of moisture, the earth and sea giving forth vapour and 
receiving back rain. 2 It dominated further the greater part 
of physiology, for digestion, absorption and nutrition were 
essentially problems of the conversion of food into the 
internal pneuma and the distribution of this through the body. 
The inter-relation of moisture and air in both 
respiratory and intestinal breath affords a physiological 
basis for these conceptions, the psychological origin of 
which, however, goes back, as was indicated above, to 
infantile life. 

y. Warmth 

In relating the variants of the idea of the Virgin 
Mary's conception, as portrayed in art, we noted the 
curious fact that rays of light were sometimes treated as 
the equivalent of radiating breath, issuing from the mouth, 
entering into the ear, and so on, and we take this as a 
starting point for the discussion of warmth as an attribute 
common to the upper and the lower breaths. The belief 
in question finds many parallels outside of Christianity : the 
legends of virgins thet have been impregnated by rays of 
light, usually from the sun or by fire, are exceedingly 
numerous and wide-spread. Bab, 3 Frazer, 4 Hartland, 5 and 
others have collected many dozens of such stories, with 
customs based on the belief, and it is not necessary to 
quote any specific examples here. They shew the usual 

1 Brett: op. cit, p. 46. 

2 Heidel: op. cit, p. 134. 

3 Bab: op. cit, S. 279 et seq. 

4 Frazer : The Golden Bough, 1900, Vol. III, pp. 204 et seq., 244, 
270, 305, 314. 

5 Hartland: Primitive Paternity, 1909, Vol. I, pp. n-13, 18, 25, 
26, 89-100. 


characteristics of supernatural births, the child proving to 
be a Messiah, a great Emperor, or what not. One rather 
striking feature is the frequency with which water is made 
to play a part in the event; the virgin is the daughter of 
a river-god, a star falls into water which she drinks, and 
so on. That the making of fire is commonly conceived of 
by the primitive mind as a sexual Performance is well 
established. 1 

But beyond the symbolic equivalency just signified, 
an inherent connection between breath and fire (or light) 
is often predicated. To breathe on a fire, especially a holy 
one, is strictly tabooed in many countries; 2 for instance a 
Braham is forbidden to blow on a fire with his mouth. 
The relation of breath to fire in folk-lore and superstition 
is a very close one. 3 In Longfellow's 'Hiawatha* it is 
described how Gitchie Manito, the c Creator of the Nations', 
blew on to the trees so that they rubbed together and 
burst into flame. In the Old Testament breath is constantly 
associated with fire, and in the Hermetic writings it is 
stated that souls are made from 'the breath of God and 
conscious fire*. In the Mithra liturgy the creative breath 
proceeds from the sun, and in the Stoic philosophy the 
cosmic Divine Fire was identical with the atmosphere. 
Jung 4 and Silberer 5 quote a number of interesting passages 
from various sources that shew the intimate association 
subsisting between the ideas of shining and sounding. It 
can therefore be said with certainty that in primitive 
thinking the ideas of sound^ heat and light are as definitely 

1 Frazer: The Magic Art, 191 1, Vol II, Ch. XV, 'The Fire-Drill' 
and p. 233. 

2 Frazer: op. cit., p. 241. Spirits of the Com and of the Wild, 
191 2, Vol. II, p. 254. 

8 Frazer: The Magic Art, Vol. II, p. 239 et seq. 

4 Jung': op. cit., S. 206-8. 

5 Silberer: Jahrbuch der Psychoanalyse, Bd. II, S. 596-7. 



interchangeable equivalents as the corresponding physical 
processes have been proved to be by the scientific doctrine 
of the transformation of energy. 

We have now to inquire into the meaning of this 
association. Fire, or heat, is known to be one of the 
commonest libidinal symbols, and, as Abraham 1 has clearly 
shewn, it is the equivalent of soma and sperma. This, 
however, obviously cannot be the original source of the 
association, for not only is the child ignorant of the 
existence of sperma, but it is relatively late before it learns 
to appreciate even that of fire. Years ago, in his Dora 
analysis, Freud 2 pointed out that in symbolic language, e. g. 
in dreams, the idea of fire replaced that of water, particu- 
larly urine; the association is partly one of contrast, 
from the mutual incompatibility of the two substances. In 
the psycho-analyses of patients I have also found that fire 
can symbolise not only urine, but also flatus, as for instance 
in phobias concerning gas-jets, 3 and further that the primary 
source of fire symbolism in general is probably to be 
explained in the following way. The infant's first experience 
of heat (as distinct from the warmth of the normal body 
temperature) is derived from the fact that all excretions are 
warmer thanthe external temperature of the body andin addition 
often produce, from their irritating and acrid nature (especially 
marked with young children), local burning sensations. When, 
now, the child becomes acquainted later on with other sources 
of heat, particularly burning heat, he inevitably forms an 
association between them and the causes of his earlier 
experiences. This happens so regularly that, for instance, 
with a phobia of fire at night one can predict with certainty 

1 Abraham: Traum und Mythus, 1909. 

2 Freud: Sammlung kleiner Schriften zur Neurosenlehre. Zweite 
Folge, S. 80. 

3 This must have been so in the case described by Reitler, loc. cit. 


that such a person will prove to be one who has in- 
completely overcome the infantile fear (and temptation) of 
bed-wetting. As we known that the child can express to 
itself the idea of sexual secretion only in terms of one or 
other excretion we can understand how it is that fire 
comes to be such a general libidinal symbol, most often 
of urine, though sometimes of flatus. We must thus infer, 
on the principles enunciated above, that the association 
between fire and breath is a secondary one, replacing the 
earlier one between fire and flatus (and urine). 

There is ample confirmation of this conclusion to be 
found in many spheres, but we shall confine ourselves 
mainly to the field of Greek philosophy, so as to extend. 
our previous considerations on this subject. In the first 
place, it is striking that the idea of heat, or fire, played 
a part of central importance in the pneuma doctrine; 
Aristotle, for instance, maintained that the active element 
in the internal pneuma was of the nature of fire, identical 
with the principle of fertility in semen. According to 
Heidel, 1 4 it is in the phenomena of fire as interpreted by the 
Greeks that we discover the best illustration of the processes 
of respiration and nutrition', and this is still the favourite 
method of introducing the study of chemical physiology. 
But the Greeks did not stay at the analogy; for them 
heat was the actual motive force that carried on these 
processes. Except among the Atomists, respiration was 
thought to proceed through the natural warmth of the 
body creating an expansion that mechanically draws in the 
colder air from without. 2 Similarly with nutrition. The 
native heat of the organism 'digested' the food, i.e. 
converted it into pneuma, in which form it was conveyed 
all through the body. It was at first believed that the 

1 Heidel: op. cit, p. 142. 

2 Heidel: op. cit, pp. 136, 141. 



heat, or fire, worked no inner change in the food, merely 
comminuting it and so preparing it for absorption into the 
blood, but the hypöthesis was carried by Aristotle to the 
further stage mentioned above, his views on digestion 
being accepted by Galen and most of the other later 
medical authorities. 1 A great number of the Greek philo- 
sophers, however, just like the modern psycho-analyst, 
refused to be satisfied with the idea of fire as a self- 
sufficing primary agent, but broached the question of 
its nature and origin. They concluded, or rather accepted 
an age-old conclusion, that fire was sustained and fed by 
water in the form of vapour, the analogy being evoked of 
the sun drawing up or drinking moisture; since, however, 
the very production of vapour is dependent on the heat, 
it would seem as though a permanent cycle was posited, 
the primordial construction of which it is impossible to 
determine. It was believed that water was the primary 
nutrient element par excellence, though this was inactive 
without the influence of the fire which it itself fed. Presum- 
ably the ultimate source of the fire was the life-instinct 
itself, for the greatest attention was paid to the passage 
of heat from the mother to the child during pre-natal 
life, but if one asks for a more explicit account of it, 
particularly where it was supposed to reside, the only 
conclusion at all conformable with the different accounts 
seems to be that it was carried in a gaseous form, con- 
stituting thus the very essence of pneuma. In short, the 
Greek theory of nutrition, just as that of respiration, 
assumes the dosest possible association between the ideas 
of heat (or fire) and of gas (or breath in the widest 

The idea of heat (or fire) played an equally prominent 
part in the Greek non-physiological conceptions, e. g. the 

1 Heidel: op. cit, pp. 141-68. 


philosophical and psychological ones. Some of the monists, 
such as Heraclitus, posited fire as their &PX 1 !- The cosmic 
process, which, as was indicated above, was imagined in 
terms of respiration and nutrition, was supposed to depend 
on evaporation and precipitation, i. e. on an alternation 
of heat and cold; the continued existence of earth 
and sea was maintained through their emitting warm 
vapours and receiving back cooling showers. 1 The very 
word 'psyche' itself is derived from the word 4™X«>» ß which 
has the double meaning of ( I breathe' and 'I cool', 3 and 
one of the favourite images in which it was described, as it 
still is in poetic diction, was that of a thin ascending flame. 
When the Neo-Platonic Plotinus rejected the Stoic doctrine 
of the material origin of the pneuma, he elaborated the 
following ingenious view: As the association of the soul 
with matter implies a degradation it cannot be placed in 
immediate contact with the body, so it makes use of a 
mediating dement, a form of pneuma, in which to clothe 
itself and be guarded from a defiling contact; this aerial 
garb is of the nature of fire (!), in which the soul dwells 
and through which it moves the body. 

Another example of the association between the idea 
of fire and the group under consideration is that to do 
with speech. Jung 4 has brilliantly demonstrated the symbolic 
equivalence of speech and fire, quoting numerous beliefs 

1 Heidel: op. cit, pp. 134, 137-40. 

2 Prof. G. S. Brett was good enough to call my attention to Plato's 
sarcastic explanation of the word ^\jx^ = fl cp6<nv öxet Kai &&\, «that 
which <conducts the nature (vitality)'. He adds: The word öxet is not a 
natural one to use and is philologically connected with a number of 
words denoting (1) pipe, Channel: (2) it is the technical word for 'ride' 
and in the form 'oXeuco means to perform the sexual act. 

3 Röscher: Ausführliches Lexikon der griechischen und römischen 
Mythologie, S. 320?. 

4 Jung: op. cit, S. 205-9. 


in which the former is primary to the latter, though I 
cannot agree with his conclusion 1 that 'the origin 
of the fire-speech phenomenon seems to be the Mother- 
Libido'. To the many passages he cites I might add one 
from the Upanishads 2 in which both Speech and fire are 
identified with the Apäna, or down-breathing. Thus fire 
originates in speech, and both in pneuma, particularly the 
intestinal one: a conclusion which is in complete harmony 
with the one formulated above 3 on the basis of individual 
analyses which shew speech to be an unconscious symbol 
for flatus (and sometimes urine also). 

To the Assyrian Fire-God, Gibil, as to many others, 
was ascribed a Logos part, 4 and we have noted above 
the close association between speech and the Christian 
Trinity, particularly the Holy Ghost. It is therefore quite 
cönsistent that the Holy Ghost should be likened to fire. 
John the Baptist preached: ( I indeed baptize you with 
water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is 
mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: 
he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire' 
(Matthew iii. n). To be purified with fire (i. e. re-born) 
is a familiär metaphor, even in common speech, and the 
gaseous origin of it, indicated also in this passage, has 
been explained above in connection with the theme ot 
baptism. In the Acts of the Apostles we read further (ii. 3) 
the following description of the descent of the Holy Ghost: 
'And there appeared unto them cloven tongues, as of 
fire, and it sat upon each of them/ 

In reference to the mention of the tongue in the last 
passage quoted it will be convenient here to say a few 

1 Jung: op. cit, S. 388. 

2 Khändogya-Upanishad, III, 13, 3. 

3 p. 289. 

4 Tiele: Babylonisch-assyrische Geschichte, 1886, S. 520. 


words on this subject in so far as it relates to the present 
group of ideas. Symbolically the tongue is equivalent to 
the beak of the Dove, both having an evident phallic 
signification. Its physiological characters render it peculiarly 
adapted for this symbolism : thus, the facts that it is a red 
pointed organ, with dangerous potentialities, capable of 
self-movement, usually discreetly concealed but capable of 
Protrusion (as in the defiant and forbidden exhibitionism 
of children), which can emit a fluid (saliva) that is a 
common symbol for semen. 

In Bohemia a fox's tongue is worn by a timid person 
as an amulet to make him bold, 1 the meaning of which is 
patent. The term 'spit-fire', applied to anyone having a 
sharp tongue, is probably a relic of the belief in dragons, 
which emitted fire from both extremities of the body. In 
the Rig-Veda the fire-god Agni is called the 'beautiful- 
tongued one'; his tongue, like the phallic magic rods, is 
so powerful that it can overcome all obstacles. 2 Fire, like 
the tongue, is said to lick (Lingua ' and allied words 
come from the Sanscrit lih = to lick). The dangerous- 
weapon idea is well shewn in a literal fashion in St. John's 
vision of the Being, of whom he writes (Revelations 
xix. 15) ( And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword' 
(another favourite phallic symbol); in another passage 
(Revelations i. 16) he describes the Son of Man as having 
a sharp two-edged sword proceeding from his mouth. The 
Holy Ghost was not the only divine spirit to descend to 
earth in the guise of a tongue, for precisely the same is 
narrated of the Egyptian God Ptah, who, like Yahweh, 
created by means of the Word. 

1 Grohmann: Aberglauben und Gebräuche aus Böhmen und 
Mähren, 1864, S. 54. 

2 Hirzel: 'Gleichnisse und Metaphern im Rigveda', Zeitschrift für 
Völkerpsychologie, Jahrg. XIX, S. 356, 357. 


Nor is the tongue bereft of connections with the 
alimentary group of ideas. It is, indeed, situate in the 
alimentary tract, and serves both for the taking in of food 
and for the spitting out of vvhat may have to be expelled 
(bad food, phlegm, etc.); the Indians gave it the name of 
Atri, ( for with the tongue food is eaten, and Atri is meant 
for Atti, eating'. 1 It is also closely related to the gaseous 
ideas discussed above. In many languages, e. g. English 
and French, the same word is used to denote both tongue 
and speech, and the association between it and inspired 
speech or thought is indicated in the following passage 
from the Acts of the Apostles (ii. 4): 'And they were 
all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with 
other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance\ The 
association tongue — sexuality — speech is manifest in a 
number of nightmare superstitions collected by Laistner, 2 
to which I will add one from Bohemia 3 — namely, that the 
tongue of a male snake, if cut from the animal on St. George's 
Eve and placed under a person's tongue, will confer the 
gift of eloquence; a similar explanation must hold for the 
well-known Irish belief of eloquence being conferred on 
whoever kisses the almost inaccessible Blarney stone. The 
tongue, therefore, is seen to be related to the ideas of 
fire, speech, sexuality, and divinity, a fact that will be 
commented on later when we discuss the idea of the 
combination of gas and an emitting organ. 

6. Odour 

This attribute differs from the preceding ones in being 
much more prominent with intestinal gas than with breath, 
and is on this account the more important for our purpose 

1 Brihadäranyaka-Upanishad, II, 2, 4. 

2 Laistner; Das Rätsel der Sphinx, 1889, Bd. I, S. 41, 42. 
8 Grohmann: op. cit, S. 81. 


of elucidating the part played by the former. The essen- 
tial relation of the sense of smell to coprophilia is well 
known to both ophresiologists and psycho-analysts* and it 
has been plainly shewn that much of the interest attaching 
to agreeable perfumes and aromatics is a replacement of 
that taken by children, and by primitive peoples, in the 
odour of excretions; the adult attitude towards the latter 
odour has become as a rule, though by no means invar- 
iably, a negative one. For both these reasons it is 
legitimate to infer that where the sense of smell has played 
a part in the formation of complex-ideas these are more 
nearly related to the phenomenon of intestinal gas than 
to that of breath. 1 Even when the odour of breath itself 
is prominent it is probable that it is secondary to the 
other; bad breath is instinctively referred to digestive 
disorder. In the psycho-analysis of patients who have an 
excessive repugnance for the odour of bad breath it is 
always found that this has originated in the repression of 
pronounced anal-erotism. The same association is often 
manifested in populär sayings and beliefs; ( to breathe on' 
was in Sparta a designation for the pederastic act, 2 and 
in Rome it was believed that the mouths of pederasts 
stank. 3 

We may begin with the part played in philosophical 
ideas. Heidel 4 says: 'Aromatics, which possess the power 
of throwing off continuous streams of effluvia without 

1 It may be conjectured that the antiquity of this buried associa- 
tion is one reason for the mysterious affective power of odours, 
especially in the revival of forgotten experiences (as screen-memories) ; 
as Marlitt says in her story 'Das Eulenhaus ', 'Nichts in der Welt macht 
Vergangenes so lebendig wie der Geruch* ('Nothing on earth makes 
the past so living as does odour'). 

2 Fehde: Die kultische Keuschheit im Altertum, 1910, S. 86. 

3 Martial: Epigrammata, Lib. xii, 86. 

4 Heidel: op. cit, p. 125. 


perceptible diminution, had great significance for Greek 
thought, although it generally has been overlooked/ This 
gives, for instance, the clue to the curious paradox that, 
although it is chemically pure water that is obtained by 
evaporation or distillation, the Greeks nevertheless held 
that it is through this process that various nutrient con- 
stituents pass from water to the inner fire and pneuma. 
They evidently seem to have regarded water not as a 
pure element, but as a liquid which contained in it all 
possible substances; 1 this belief points to an infantile origin 
in the idea of urine, the conception of which as an essence- 
containing liquid has proved fertile to many trains of thought. 2 
The Solution of the paradox is yielded by the Observation 
that when a liquid evaporates the most volatile parts, not 
necessarily pure water vapour, are carried upwards, while 
the heavier, coarser parts are separated off and remain 
behind. The whole process, therefore, one of cardinal 
significance for the pneuma doctrine both of the individual 
and of the cosmos, was conceived as the evaporation 
and passing over of the volatile, quintessential elements, 
which were perceptible only to the sense of smell. The 
dosest association was thus formed between this sense 
and the idea of essential constituent, one which is still 
retained in our use of the word 'essential' (cp. 'an 
essential oil', 'an essential idea'). 

The importance of odour is shewn in more direct 
ways than in that just indicated. One thinks at once of 
the extensive part played by incense in so many religions, 
and this in all probability replaced the earlier idea of the 
'sweet savour* of burnt offerings. 3 (Taste and smell were 

1 See Heidel: op. cit., pp. 142, 143. 

2 See Chapter IV, p. 142, 156 et seq. 

8 See Atchley : A History of the Use of Incense, 1909, pp. 18, 76, etc. 


not distinguished until relatively late in civilisation and are 
still popularly confounded to a remarkable extentj the 
Greeks, for instance, for some time denoted both by the 
same word f]So vr\.) The smell of the sacrifice was always 
considered to be specially pleasing to the god. The 
Fountain of Youth in Ethiopia, described by Herodotus, 
was aromatic and so ethereal as to be almost comparable 
to a vapour-bath, while the ambrosia on which the Gods 
fed had a marvellous fragrance. Aromatics were quite 
generally regarded in Greece as producing 'enthusiasm* or 
possession by the Godhead, 1 and inspiration altogether was 
connected with the same idea; the Pythia, for example, 
Apollo's priestess, derived her inspiration partly from the 
aroma of the sacred laurel and partly from the vapours 
issuing from her tripod. 2 It is interesting that in the 
Teutonic mythology also poetic inspiration was attributed 
to the drinking of a divine drink, Odrerir the 'poet's 
drink' or 'life-juice' of Odin, which is psychologically 
equivalent to ambrosia, nectar, soma, and semen. The 
sexual meaning of the drink is plainly enough indicated 
in the myth that Odin won possession of it by penetrating 
into a mountain in the form of a snake and so reaching 
the giant's daughter Gunnlod, whose love he of course 
wins; the Odrerir itself was generated by mixing honey 
with the blood of Kväfir, a man of wisdom who owed 
his existence to the mingling of two lots of saliva. 3 Customs 
of inducing inspiration by means of odours are very wide- 
spread; they are quoted by Frazer 4 from Bali, India, 
Madura, Uganda, etc. In Greece the foods partaken at the 

1 Rohde: op. cit, Bd. II, S. 60 et seq. 

2 Bethe: 'Die dorische Knabenliebe ', Rheinisches Museum, 
Bd. LXII, S. 438-75. 

8 Mogk: Germanische Mythologie, 1906, S. 46, 47. 

4 Frazer: The Magic Art, 191 1, Vol. I, pp. 379, 383, 384. 


wedding feast and at the sacramental meal of the mysteries 
were all strongly pungent or aromatic, as were also the 
herbs laid beneath the dead at funerals. 

On the homeopathic principle of 'like repelling like' 
odoriferous substances have been extensively used to 
counteract unpleasant or dangerous influences. In Greece, 
according to Heidel, 1 'exhalations or effluvia of various 
kinds were the chief apotropaic and purificatory means 
employed in the most diverse circumstances. , Heat and 
cold were thought of essentially as effluvia, so that it is 
little wonder that fire became the purifying and apotropaic 
agency par excellence, as possessing the most evident 
emanations; that these were concerned in the efficacy is 
testified by Plato's remark, 'the demons love not 
the reek of torches'. 2 Almost all cathartic simples known 
to the materia medica of the Greeks possess a strong 
odour, rank or aromatic; wines were diuretic, diachoretic, 
or constipating according as they were aromatic or not. 
The efficacy of olive oil as a daily unguent and at burial 
was no doubt partly due to its aromatic properties; hence 
the use of it, or of wine, in the first bath given to the 
infant, and subsequently in Christian baptism. Nor should 
we overlook the extensive use of fumigations by Greek 
physicians, such as the internal fumigation of women after 
childbirth and as an emmenagogue. 3 But we need not go 

1 Heidel: op. cit, p. 126. 

2 Frazer (The Magic Art, Vol. II; The Scapegoat and Bai der the 
Beautiful, Vol. I and II) gives many examples of the protection against 
evil influences, especially witches, by means of evil odours, smoke, 
fumigation, and so on. Luther divined the original sense of these 
procedures (See p. 285). In the Dark Ages evil spirits were exorcised 
by either purgation or by prayer and fasting; their departure coincided 
with the cessation of internal rumblings that goes with a State of internal 
emptiness (Private communication from Prof. G. S. Brett). 

3 These three sentences are taken from Heidel: op. cit, p. 127. 


to the ancient Greeks for such examples. Oil at baptism 
and swinging censers are still universal in the Catholic 
Church; the fumigating powers of sulphur, alluded to by 
Homer, are still devoutly believed in by every house-wife, 
in spite of all proofs of their non-existence ; no one places 
any faith in medicine that has no odour; the expelling of 
the demons of hysteria by evil-smelling asafoetida and 
valerian has not yet come to an end; and bacteriologists 
have had the greatest difficulty in dissuading surgeons 
from estimating the potency of a disinfectant by the strength 
of its smell. 

We thus see that the idea of odour is interwoven 
with those of heat, fire, vapour, and speech (inspiration), 
that odorous gas was believed to further the fruitfulness 
of women, 1 herds, and land (See pp. 302-3), to be pleasing 
to the gods and to drive away evil spirits and disease. 
I would submit that this persistent over-estimation of the 
idea, in both folk-lore and early philosophy, may in a great 
measure be ascribed to the circumstance that it is a 
prominent attribute of that down-going gas which is so 
important in primitive thought. At all events no one would 
derive it from the upper breath, the odour of which is so 
much less a prominent feature. 

7. Summary 

We may now briefly summarise our conclusions on 
the subject of breath symbolism. Starting from the considera- 
tion that the idea of breath has apparently played a part 
in the history of human thought disproportionate to the 

1 A poetical reference to this may be found in Milton's Samson 
Agonistes, who refers to Delilah as follows: 
'Who also in her prime of love, 
Spousal embraces, vitiated with gold, 
Though offer'd only, by the scent conceived 
Her spurious first-born, treason against me.' 


psychical significance inherently attaching to it, we inferred 
that it must have derived some of its importance by dis- 
placement from a still more primary idea. In the individual 
we had found by psycho-analysis that respiratory processes 
tend to be interpreted in the Unconscious in terms ot 
alimentary ones, which phylogenetically they originally were 
and fröm the point of view of metabolic function still are, 
and which the erotogenic value of the corresponding 
sensations render of fundamental psychical significance in 
individual life. This conclusion is amply confirmed by a 
study of the ideas modelled on breath, the extensive 
material offered by Indian and Greek philosophy being 
specially chosen to illustrate this because of its accessibility 
and the prominence given there to such ideas. We found 
there that, just as in the child, the idea of respiration is 
secondary to that of alimentation; that breath receives 
much of its importance and interest from the conception 
of it as something which swallows, projects, and disseminates 
or expels food, besides intimately mingling with it in 
digestion to form vapour — the internal pneuma — which 
becomes the purveyor of nutrition to the system, the 
transmitter of both afferent and efferent nervous impulses, 
the generator of the fertilising principle, of thought, intelli- 
gence, and the soul itself. It is this internal pneuma, which 
arises from intestinal decomposition, and in the gener ation 
of which the inspired air ptay or may not be supposed to 
take pari, that is the trtie f breath ' largely responsible for 
all these secondary conceptions ; and not solely ) as is 
generally supposed, the inspired breath in the usual sense. 
In the ideas historically moulded on that of breath 
we recognise again what in the Unconscious are symbolic 
equivalents of intestinal gas: thus, wind, fire, speech, music, 
thought, soul, etc. The idea that is symbolised seems 
to possess a peculiar facility for lending itself to the most 


refined forms of Sublimation, a quality which is psycho- 
logically to be interpreted as a measure of the intensity 
of the repression to which the idea is subjected. 1 Attention 
may be drawn to two instances of this : the part played 
by incense and music, especially singing, in religionj and 
the prevailing conception of the soul. The latter is parti- 
cularly striking and the different stages of its growth can 
be well traced in Greek thought. Beginning with the nutrient 
water, the source of all things, we see the coarser con- 
stituents being precipitated and discarded, while the finer 
elements, the essence of essences, are distilled over into 
vapour (pneuma), which in its turn is purified of any 
grossness still remaining and is rarefied into an aerial 
medium, ethereal and spiritual, intangible, invisible and inde- 
finable — the psyche; such is the power ascribed to that 
magic laboratory, the intestinal tract. This extraordinary 
capacity for Sublimation is probably the reason why the 
conception of the soul derived from the primitive ( breath- 
soul ' {Hauchseele) is definitely replacing that derived from 
the 'shadow-soul' (Schattenseele)) being better adapted to 
express the loftiest ideas of purity and spirituality. 

It is highly probable that the Sublimation of the 
original interest proceeded historically by a series of steps, 
as it does in the individual, and one might venture on the 
following description of these. Such an attempt must 
necessarily be schematic, for it is not to be supposed that 
the evolution in question takes place in the same Order 
in all individuals, or in all races; a given sublimated interest, 
therefore, may represent one of the described stages in 
one respect, but perhaps not in others. To begin with we 
have the beliefsand interests in external phenomena that 
in a crude way nearly resemble the original personal ones : 

1 See Freud on this correlation: Sammlung kleiner Schriften zur 
Neurosenlehre, Vierte Folge, 191 8, S. 284. 


thus, the belief that hot evil-smelling vapours explosively 
issuing from the ( bowels' of the earth lead to increased 
fertility and strength. The first stage in Sublimation probably 
consisted in the replacement of disagreeable odours by 
agreeable ones, the stage of aromatics, ambrosia and 
incense. The second stage we may conceive as being brought 
about through the element of odour being eliminated altogether. 
Interest is then transferred to such ideas as those in which 
sound plays a prominent part, either in the form of noise 
(cries, savage instrumentSj 'bull-roarer', thunder) or in that 
of music; the ideas of speech and the spoken 'Word* also 
belong here. The third stage sees the removal of the 
attribute of sound, when we have developed the pneuma 
doctrine, theories of evaporation, and the idea of cosmic 
respiration. In the fourth stage moisture disappears, and 
interest gets concentrated on the importance of heat and 
fire, both as cosmic processes and as individual ones 
(respiration and digestion, refinements of the pneuma 
doctrine). With the fifth stage this also vanishes, and we 
are left with such ideas as 'the breath of God', the winds 
and the outer air, and so on. The sixth and final stage 
finds even this notion of blowing movement too intolerable, 
as recalling, hovvever dimly, the original idea. The complex 
has now been 'purged of all material grossness', and is 
fit to render such lofty thoughts as those of ( the rational 
soul', universal ether, and world-consciousness. Fiveofthe 
six original attributes (odour, noise, moisture, warmth, and 
movement) have been eliminated by progressive processes 
of de-odorisation, silencing, dessication, cooling and calming, 
and there is left only the abstract conception of a fluid 
that is invisible, intangible, inaudible and odourless, i.e. 
imperceptible and inaccessible to any of the senses. As 
will be noticed, however, the Sublimation has only in certain 
cases been carried through to its uttermost extreme, and 


all of the attributes find various expressions at the present 
time as well as in the past. 

It should constantly be borne in mind that much of the 
importance which has been attached to the present topic 
owes its origin in the last resort not to physiological or philo- 
sophical speculation, but to the sexual interest and sensations 
of infantile life. For the young child, and for the adult 
Unconscious, intestinal gas is before all a sexual material, 
the symbolic equivalent of urine and of the later semen. 
That it still retains some of this primary significance even 
in its conscious ramifications is indicated by the numerous 
beliefs referred to above in which the secondary ideas 
derived from that of breath, such as wind, speech, fire, etc., 
are treated as fertilising principles, and have the capacity 
ascribed to them of leading to conception in the literal 

There are two answers to the question put at the 
beginning of this chapter, of why it was God's breath 
that was chosen to represent the fertilising material in 
the Madonna legend, and they are of equal importance. 
One of them we reserve until some other features of the 
legend have been considered. The other is given by our 
analysis of the infantile source of the material in question, 
which has shewn that this concerns a secretion that better 
than any other lends itself to de-sensualisation. 


At first sight it would seem in the legend under 

discussion that the two figures of the Holy Dove and the 

Archangel Gabriel merely represent, in a duplicate fashion, 

the same idea, for both are divine agents that pour into 

the Virgin's ear, one breath, the other the Word; they 



have the further common attribute of being winged beings. 
There can be no doubt that they considerably overlap in 
their signification, but reflection shews that this doubling, 
as perhaps all symbolic reduplication, is of the nature of 
mythological 'decomposition': in other words, the two 
figures represent attributes, dissociated from the main 
personality, which are closely akin, but not quite identical. 

It is clear that the notion of a messenger in general 
is always based on this psychological process, which 
strictly speaking is a form of projection. A messenger 
represents one or more aspects of the main personality; 
for example, the king's thoughts on a given topic. Psycho- 
logically he may be called a part of the king, being an 
agent of his wishes in the same way as the king's hand 
or tongue might be. Otherwise expressed, he symbolises 
the king, by representing one or other of his attributes. 
The primary conception of a messenger, well illustrated 
by the stories of the angels and of Satan in the Old 
Testament, was thus of an agent who carried out the 
king's wishes, rather than that of a mere conveyer of news. 
In ages when less attention was paid to the reality- 
principle this was clearly recognised, the messenger being 
treated as fully responsible for the news he brought and 
executed if this was bad. Even to-day we see — or did 
at least until before the War — indications of this early 
attribute in the special deference paid to ambassadors and 
othe accredited representatives of power. 

The same primitive attribute is also evident in the 
present legend, for the Annunciation is exactly synchronous 
with the conception; more than this, it may be said in a 
certain sense actually to effect it. And it is here that we 
can see the distinction between the parts played by the 
angel and the Dove. For while in older mythologies, e. g. 
the Greek, the Supreme Being wishing to impregnate a 


mortal maiden appeared to her in the symbolic guise of 
an impregnating agent alone, a snake, a swan, or some 
other phallic symbol, in the Christian myth He is not 
content with this, but appears also in the guise of a man. 
The Archangel Gabriel thus represents the Divine Being 
in human form, or, more precisely, that aspect of Hirn 
which wishes to effect a human act. This wish, the cause 
of the act, is identical with the Annunciation, and since 
the wishes of God, just like those of an obsessional 
patient, are all-powerful, it is little wonder that we have ä 
certain difficulty at first in distinguishing between the part 
played by the symbol of the wishing personality (the angel) 
and that played by the symbol of the means of execution 
(the Dove). The true significance of Gabriel is naively 
revealed by St. Ephrem 1 thus: 'The Archangel Gabriel 
was sent under the form of a venerable aged man, lest 
so chaste and so modest a maiden should be troubled, 
or seized with any fear, at a youthful appearance.' 

In the Annunciation scene the Archangel Gabriel 
holds a ßozver, usually a lily, in his right hand. Flowers 
have always been emblematic of women, and particularly 
of their genital region, as is indicated by the use of the 
word 'defloration' and by various passages in the Song 
of Solomon. A flower in symbolic language signifies a child 
(an unconscious equivalent of the female genitalia); the 
association is formed through the origin of flowers in the 
mother-earth, favoured by watering and manuring, 2 and is 

1 St. Ephrem: De Divers. Serm., i, 600. In a Syriac tradition oi 
the fourth Century (The History of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Edited by 
Wallis Budge, 1899, p. 22) I also read that * Gabriel appeared unto her 
in the form of a venerable old man, so that she might not flee 
from him.' 

2 The coprophilic association here hinted at is strengthened by 
the fact that an attractive odour is one of the most striking attributes 
of flowers, 



represented in consciousness by the supposed innocence 
and sexlessness of both — as fictitious in the one case as 
in the other. The flower here, therefore, represents the 
child 1 that the divine ambassador is promising and proffer- 
ing — or rather giving — to the Virgin. 

The lily was considered a special attribute of the 
Madonna, representing both her motherhood and her 
innocence, and before the fourteenth Century was always 
depicted in the Annunciation scene at her side; later it 
was placed either between her and Gabriel, as in the ac- 
companying picture, 2 or in the hand of the latter. Both 
aspects of the metaphor are expressed in the following 
description : 3 * Mary is the lily of chastity, but glowing with 
the flames of love, in order to spread around her the 
sweetest perfume and grace\ A delightful odour was one 
of the Madonna's most prominent physical characteristics, 
and is constantly mentioned by the Fathers: thus, 
Chrysostom 4 calls her ( the Paradise that is filled with the 
most divine perfume'. 

The lily is a flower with a long history in antiquity, 
and has always been especially associated with the idea 
of innocence. The very name comes from the Greek 
Xeiptov ( -" simple). The Romans called it Rosa Junonis, 
because it was supposed to have sprung from the pure 
milk of the Queen of Heaven. It was associated with the 
Chaste Susanna, the Hebrew name for lily being 'shusham'. 
(In other Semitic languages it is 'susanna'j in Persia, 
from where the lily is said to have come, the ancient 

1 I have published an exact illustration of this connection {Jahr- 
buch der Psychoanalyse, 1913, Bd. V, S. 90, Fall III), the flower being 
there also, as it happens, a lily. 

2 See Frontispiece. 

3 Petr, Dam.: De Nat. Beat. Virg., iii. 

* Chrysostom: De Beatae Mariae Virg., vii. 


capital, Susa, was named after it. 1 ) It was a favourite 
attribute of the youthful Aphrodite. The lily has also a 
close connection with the souHdea. The Greeks, parti- 
cularly the Athenians, strewed lilies on the graves of their 
dead. The Egyptians believed that the spirit-body in heaven 
transformed itself into the celestial lily which the God Ra 
held to his nose. 2 

Turning now our attention to the other figure, the 
Holy Dove, we have two principal questions to answer: 
why was the Holy Ghost depicted in the form of a bird, 
and why particularly in that of a dove? Up to the present 
we have considered the idea of the Holy Ghost in its 
aspect as symbolising the fertilising principle, but from 
what has just been said it is piain that it symbolises as 
well the agent that transmits this in obedience to the will 
of the Father. 3 

1 See Strauss: Die Blumen in Sage und Geschichte, 1875, S. 78-80. 

2 Wallis Budge: Osiris and the Egyptian Resurrection, 191 1, 
Vol. I, p. in. 

3 In this essay the idea of the Holy Ghost is treated only in its 
masculine aspects, as is proper in Christian mythology. As is well 
known, the Christian Trinity is a distortion of the original one, as 
obtaining in all the older religions, e. g. the Babylonian, Egyptian, 
Greek, etc., where it comprised Father, Mother, and Son. The sternly 
patriarchal Hebrew conception banned the Mother to a subordinate part 
and the Son to a remotely distant future, but retained their original 
relationship. The Christian theology changed the Mother into the male 
Holy Ghost (combination of phallus and fertilising principle), but in 
practice reinstated her importance. The attempt made by the Melchite 
sect in Egypt to retain the original Trinity of Father, Mary, and Messiah 
was crushed at the Nicene Council, though even the memory of it led 
Cardinal Newman to wax so ecstatic as to have his words termed 'the 
very poetry of blasphemy* (Hislop: The Two Babylons, p. 82). Hebrew 
theology and Christian worship thus form the obverse of Hebrew 
worship and Christian theology in their attitude towards the Mother, 
who could not be completely abolished from either religion. It was 
reserved for Protestantism to make this final step in the evolution of a 


Birds have always been favourite baby-bringing symbols, 
and are still used for this purpose in the familiär stork 
legend; 1 winged phalli were among the commonest Roman 
amulets. 2 The ways in which this association became forged 
are evident as soon as we consider the most striking 
characteristics of birds, which we will proceed to do 
in order. 

i. Pozver of Flight 

Certainly the characteristic of birds which has most 
impressed itself on the human imagination is the extra- 
ordinary power they have of rapidly ascending into the 
air at will, an idea the fascination of which may be 
measured by the appeal made by aviation. Psycho-analysis 
has revealed the underlying source of this interest — namely, 
that the act of rising in the air is constantly, though quite 
unconsciously, associated with the phenomenon of erection. 3 

purely androgenic procreation myth, which has ended in a universal 
feminine protest in the countries professing this faith. 

Now it is interesting to note that the idea of the Holy Spirit was 
intimately connected with that of a bird, and especially with that of a 
dove, even in its original maternal meaning. The passage in Genesis 
[i. 2), for instance, 'And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of 
the waters ' should really run 'The Mother of the Gods brooded (or 
fluttered) over the abyss and brought forth life*. According to Wallis 
Budge this Ruach is feminine and has descended from an earlier myth- 
Dlogy (probably Babylonian) as the wife of God. The act of creation in 
Genesis is commonly portrayed (e. g. on a stained-glass window in the 
sathedral of Auxerre) as being performed by a dove, and we shall see 
that this bird was peculiarly emblematic of most of the supreme 

1 An exact analysis of this has been published by Otto Rank: 
Die Lohengrinsage, 1911, S. 55-8. 

2 See Vorberg: Museum eroticum Neapoütanum ; Ein Beitrag zum 
Geschlechtsleben der Römer, Privatdruck, 1910. 

3 A fact first pointed out by Federn (Cited by Freud: Die Traum- 
äeutung, 3 Aufl., S. 204). 


This characteristic of birds alone, therefore, would make 
them well suited to serve as phallic symbols. 

Several religious similes are based, at least in part, 
on this association. Thus the upward flight of the bird 
was used to represent the aspiration of a soaring soul, 
and in the catacombs the idea of such souls being released 
from sin is depicted by birds escaping from their cages 
and flying upwards. In the same way the idea of a bird's 
flight came to represent that of resurrection, i. e. of aris- 
ing again. Tertullian seems to have been the first to point 
out the resemblance between a flying bird with out- 
stretched wings and the Saviour nailed to his cross, a 
fancy which was later much used in religious art; in most 
pictures, for instance, of St. Francis receiving the Stigmata, 
the descending Saviour is portrayed, in cruciform fashion, 
as a bird with a human head. 

2. Form of Head 

The reptilian neck of birds, continued in a snake-like 
way into the head, the darting pointed beak, and the 
power of rapid Protrusion, are all features that inevitably 
recall a snake, thus explaining why this part of the bird 
specially tends to be unconsciously conceived of in terms 
of phallic symbolism. 

3. Absence of Externa! Genital Organs 

This strikes a boy's mind as stränge after his ex- 
perience of other animals, as well as of himself, and gives 
rise to a contrast association which is probably of a 
compensatory nature (denying the painful truth by excessive 
insistence); in a similar manner flowers, which are also 
popularly regarded as having no genital organs, are among 
the commonest of love-symbols. The importance of this 
Observation, which will be discussed later, is that it leads 


to fancies being formed to explain it of such a kind as 
to link up with the infantile fancies of procreation we have 
considered previously, and which throw much light on the 
question of why a bird is chosen to depict the Holy Ghost. 

^. Power of Song 

This striking characteristic, almost ünique in the animal 
kingdom, is so obviously related to love-making that it 
becomes associated with the series of symbolic equivalents 
discussed in the previous chapter. Reference may also be 
made here to the belief in the 'thunder-bird' current among 
the North American Indians, 1 in which the sound element 
is emphasised in a connection that inevitably reminds one 
of the thunder beliefs and thunder-weapons mentioned 

j. Relation to the Air 

It is only natural that the idea of air should play a 
prominent part in phantasies concerning birds, who shew 
such a supreme mastery over this element, and similarly 
that birds should play a prominent part in symbolism 
relating to air; indeed the absence of a bird in such 
symbolism would need more explanation than its presence. 
In the examples mentioned earlier of the beliefs in the 
fertilisation of animals by means of wind it is noteworthy 
that nearly all of them relate to birds; the idea of gaseous 
fertilisation would thus seem to be readily associated with 
that of birds. The connection between the two ideas has 
been made use of in various cosmogonies. Thus the Poly- 
nesians describe the heaven- and air-God Tangaroa as a bird 
hovering over the waters, 2 and it is probable that this was 

1 Eels: Annual Report of the Smithsonian Institute for 1887, 
p. 674; Boas: Sixth Report on the North- Western Tribes of Canada, 
1890, p. 40. 

2 Waitz: Anthropologie der Naturvölker, 1872, Bd. VI, S. 241.- 


the original sense of the reference in Genesis to the wind 
of Elohim brooding over the waters 1 (See Footnote, p. 326). 
After what was said in reference to the previous 
characteristics it is not very surprising that they should 
become associated with the last-mentioned one, the head, 
neck and beak being then regarded as a phallic organ 
which expels the fertilising gas. This is a more natural 
idea than it might at first sight appear, for, after all, 
whatever the nature of the fertilising substance the male 
organ is the typical expelling agent. I have come across 
this phantasy several times in the course of individual 
psycho-analysis, the explanation being that the person has 
in childhood considered the male organ to be a continuation 
of the rectum or its contents; the two corresponding part- 
instincts are always astonishingly closely connected in the 
Unconscious. 2 The same association probably helps some- 
what to explain the fondness that so many boys have for 
blowing whistles and trumpets (sound of course entering 
into the association); as well as the use of trumpets, to 
which attention was called above, for the purpose of raising 
the dead, i. e. of infusing life into them. 3 Noise, especially 
in the form of trumpet blowing, often plays an important 
part in initiation ceremonies, a matter which will be dis- 
cussed later. The same association may also be found in 
erotic art, of which two examples may be mentioned: In 
a picture by Felicien Rops, entitled 'J 0U J 0U, > a nymph 
with satyr legs and a Phrygian cap is creating planets by 
blowing bubbles with the aid of a phallus which she holds 
to her mouth as a trumpet; 4 in one published in 'L'Art 

1 Cheyne: Encyclop. Brit, Vol. VI, p. 447. 

2 See Freud : 'Über Triebumsetzungen insbesondere der Anal- 
erotik', Sammlung kleiner Schriften zur Neurosenlehre, Vierte Folge, 1918. 

3 Compare the sexual significance of tongue and speech pointed 
out above. 

4 Das erotische Werk des Felicien Rops, 1905, Nr. 13. 


de p£ter' a cupid is depicted blowing bubbles through a 
tube with the mouth and at the same time with the anus. 1 
The legend of Athene, who was born out of her father's 
head, the product of his 'thought', has to be interpreted 
in the same way — to follow the hint from Plotinus mentioned 
above (p. 309). I would even suggest that this association 2 
plays a part in determining a feature of our Madonna 
legend — namely, the notion that the fertilising breath of 
God issues from the beak of the Holy Dove. In support 
of this the following examples may be cited. The unicorn 
(a purely phallic conception) was a recognised emblem of 
the Christian Logos, or creative Word of God; its symbolic 
meaning, and its close association with breath, becomes 
piain from an old German picture which was very populär 
at the end of the fifteenth Century. 3 In this the Annunication 
is represented in the form of a hunt. Gabriel blows the 
angelic greeting on a hunting hörn. A unicorn flees (or is 
blown) to the Virgin Mary and plunges his hörn into her 
( lap', while God the Father blesses them from above. A 
second example is even less ambiguous, for in it the passage 
of God's breath is actually imagined as proeeeding through 
a tube: over a portal of the Marienkapelle at Würzburg 
is a relief-representation of the Annunciation 4 in which the 
Heavenly Father is blowing along a tube that extends from 
his Ups to the Virgin's ear, and down which the infant 
Jesus is descending. 

1 Reproduced in Stern's illustrierte Geschichte der erotischen 
Literatur', 1908, Bd. I, S. 240. 

2 To this also may in part be attributed the use of such phrases 
as 'inflated', * blown up', etc., as Synonyms for excessive pride (narcissism). 

3 Reproduced by P. Ch. Cahier: Caracteristiques des Saints dans 
l'art populaire, 1867. 

4 Reproduced by Fuchs : Illustrierte Sittengeschichte; Renaissance; 
Ergänzungsband, 1909, S. 289. 


The extent to which the idea of a bird is connected 
with the attributes of bodily gas enumerated in the previous 
chapter is indeed remarkable: thus, with sound (singing), 
with invisibility (difficulty with which it is caught sight of, 
disappearance in the air), with heat (higher bodily tem- 
perature than any other animal, nearness to the sun), with 
movement and wind (rapid flight, mastery over air), and so 
on. Two further illustrations may be given of the way in which 
the idea of a bird enters into this circle of 'gaseous' ideas. 
In the first place the soul is frequently conceived of in bird 
form 1 (especially in Christian art) and is then depicted, appro- 
priately enough, as leaving the body after death by issuing 
from the mouth. 2 The second example, that of the phoenix, 
displays an extraordinary richness in the present group of 
associations and epitomises most of the ideas we have 11p 
to here discussed, while of interest in the present connection 
is the circumstance that the early Christians adopted the 
legend of its life-history to symbolise the resurrection of 
Jesus. 3 The phoenix was a golden shining bird, sometimes 
described as a ray emanating from the sun. It prepares 
for its death by surrounding itself with cinnamon, myrrh 
and other aromatic spices, and by addressing to the sun 
a song that is 4 more beautiful than the sound of the 
nightingale, the flutes of the Muses, or the lyre of Hermes'. 
It dies, amidst a blaze of fragrant perfume, in a fire created 
by the fanning of its wings, or — as was at other times 

1 Frazer (Taboo and the Perils of the Soul, 191 1, pp. 33-5) 
gives examples from all parts of the world. 

2 As was hinted earlier in this essay, in this belief the mouth is 
probably in part a replacement of the other extremity of the alimentary 
canal; the original form of the belief sometimes comes to open 
expression, an example being in the fourteenth Century farce *Le Muynier' 
(Dupuoy: Medicine in the Middle Ages, p. 84). 

8 Bachofen: Versuch über die Gräbersymbolik der Alten, 1859, 
S. 109. 


believed — by the heat of the sun's rays. The first act of 
the young phoenix born from this fire is to carry the 
relics of its sire, in a casket of myrrh, to a sacred temple 
and pronounce over them a funeral oration. 

The idea of a rara avis } usually a bird of fire, is 
common to many nations, being found in Egypt, China, 
and most oriental countries; the populär appeal of the idea 
is still witnessed by the success attending Maeterlinck's 
'L'Oiseau bleu'. A Slav fairy-tale teils how a certäin Prince 
acquired a feather from the wing of Ohnivak, the Fire- 
Bird, and 'so lovely and bright was it that it illumed all 
the galleries of the palace and they needed no other light'; 
he falls into a pensive decline and, summoning his three 
sons, says to them 'If I could but hear the bird Ohnivak 
sing just once, I should be cured of this disease of the 
heart'. 1 In Namoluk, one of the Caroline islands, it is 
believed that fire came to men in the following way: 
Olofaet, the master of flames, gave fire to the bird l mwi' 
and bade him carry it to earth in his beak; so the bird 
flevv from tree to tree and stored away the slumbering 
force of the fire in the wood, from which men can elicit 
it by friction. 2 In Shelley's 'To a Skylark' most of the 
preceding associations are poetically illustrated. For example : 
soul (Hail to thee, blithe spirit — Bird thou never wert); 
fire (like a cloud of fire); invisibility (Thou art unseen, but 
yet I hear thy shrill delight); rising flight (thou scorner of the 
ground); voice (All the earth and air with thy voice is loud). 

With all these associations it is piain that nothing 
could easily be better imagined than a bird to symbolise 
a bringer of a wonderful message from the air. Children 

1 Harding: Fairy-Tales of the Slav Peasants and Herdsmen, 1896, 
p. 269 et seq. 

2 Girschner; 'Die Karolineninsel Namoluk und ihre Bewohner', 
Baessler- Archiv, 191 2, Bd. II, S. 141. 


keep a pretty reminder of them in the familiär saying ( A 
little bird told me', meaning ( whispered a secret to me\ 

The problem of why particularly a dove was chosen 
in the present instance is most conveniently approached 
by first considering some of the ways in which it has 
played a part in other mythologies. This part has been a 
rather extensive one, for the dove was a sacred animal 
among the Assyrians, Egyptians, and Hebrews, was an 
attribute of Astarte and Semiramis (who was supposed to 
have been transformed into one after her death), and was 
the favourite bird of Aphrodite, whose chariot was drawn 
by doves. At the Syrian Hierapolis, one of the chief seats 
of her worship, dove§ were so holy that they might not 
even be touched; if a man inadvertently touched one, he 
was unclean or taboo for the rest of the day. 1 Figures 
of doves played a prominent part in the decoration of 
Aphrodite's sanctuary at Old Paphos. 2 Frazer gives reason 
for thinking that the Cyprian custom of sacrificing doves 
in honour of Adonis dated from an older form of worship 
in which a holy man, personifying the Goddess's lover, was 
sacrificed. 3 

The association of the ideas of dove and love has 
always been a close one, and is met with in different 
ages. The following is a love-charm used in Bohemia: A 
girl goes into the woods on St. George's Eve and catches 
a ring-dove, which must be a male one; early in the 
morning she carries it to the hearth, presses it to her 
bare breast, and lets it fly 11p the chimney (a well-known 
vaginal symbol), muttering an incantation the while. 4 In 

1 Lucian: De dea Syria, liv. 

2 A good description of this is given by Frazer: Adonis, Attis,, 
Osiris, 1907, p. 29. 

8 Frazer: op. cit., pp. 114, H5« 
* Grohmann: op. cit., S. 77. 


1784 a mixed pseudo-freemasonry, the object of which 
was the pursuit of love, was formed at Versailles, the 
members being termed the ( Chevaliers et Chevali6res de 
la Colombe'. 1 

The phallic symbolism of the dove is also unmistak- 
able in the following examples. The Christian myth we are 
considering can be closely paralleled by the Greek one in 
which Zeus assumes the form of a dove in order to seduce 
Phtheia on one of his human expeditions, just as on other 
similar occasions he assumed other phallic ones, snake, 
bull, swan, and so on. When Catullus mentions Caesar's 
salaciousness he does so by using the expression 'colum- 
bulus albulus'. According to Philo, the dove was the 
emblem of wisdom, which in mythology, as with the snake, 
unicorn, etc., is always a phallic attribute, 2 and Jesus 
himself brought it into a contrast association with the 
snake: ( Be ye as wise as the serpent and as harmless as 
the dove' (Matthew x. 16). Von Hahn 3 relates three 
stories from modern Greek folk-lore in which the life of 
an enchanter or ogre is bound up with that of two, or 
three, doves; when they die, he dies also. The sense of 
this becomes clear when it is compared with another 
variant in which the life of an old man is bound up with 
that of a ten-headed serpent; when the serpent's heads 
are cut off one after another, he feels ill, and when the 
last one is cut off he expires. 4 But the most unequivocal 
indication of the symbolic signification of the dove is to 
be found in the extra-canonical legend which relates that 
a dove escaped from Joseph's genital organ and alighted 

1 Dictionnaire Larousse: Art. 'Golombe*. 

2 See Chapter IV, p. 135. 

a Von Hahn: Griechische und albanesische Märchen, 1864, Bd. I, 
S. 187; Bd. II, S. 215, 260. 

4 Von Hahn: op. cit, Bd. II, S. 23. 


on his head (an unconscious symbol of the erect phallus) 
to designate him as the future husband of the Virgin 
Mary; 1 the story is weakened in the writings of the later 
Christian Fathers, who say that the dove escaped from 
Joseph's rod (!). 

Appropriately enough it is a dove that furnishes Zeus 
with ambrosia ( = soma), and in the legend of St. Remy 
brings the bishop the oil-flask to anoint King Clovis (oil 
being an equivalent symbol). 2 An interesting parallel to 
this is the legend that Aeneas was guided by two doves 
to the Golden Bough, 3 for Frazer has shewn that the 
Golden Bough represents mistletoe growing on an oak- 
tree, 4 and mistletoe is as familiär a symbol of sperma (like 
ambrosia and oil) as the oak is of the male organ. French 
peasants think that mistletoe originates in birds' düng; 5 
the ancients knew that it was propagated from tree to 
tree by seeds that have been carried and voided by birds, 
and Pliny 6 teils us that the birds which most often deposited 
the seeds were doves and thrushes. 

According to Apollonius, a dove guided the Argonauts 
on their wanderings. The ideas of bringing, guiding and 
leading have much in common with that of ' messenger ', 
and a well-known Greek legend of the dove is that in 
which it figures as the love-messenger carrying the billeis 
donx of the poet Anacreon, who had been presented with 
it by Aphrodite in return for a song. Like most love- 
figures in mythology, including even Aphrodite herseif, 
the dove could represent not only life, but also death; 

1 Protevang., St. Jacob, Cap. 9; Evang. infant. St. Mariae, Cap. 8. 
Cited after Maury: Essai sur les legendes pieuses du moyen-äge, 1843. 

2 De Gubernatis: Zoological Mythology, 1872, Vol. II, p. 305. 
8 Virgil: Aen., VI, 190, 293 et seq. 

* Frazer: Balder the Beautiful, 191 3, Vol. II, pp. 285, 315-20. 

5 Gaidoz: Revue de l'histoire des religions, 1880, Vol. II, p. 76. 

6 Pliny; op. cit, XVI, 247. 


thus in the hymns of the Rig-Veda the dove (Kapota) is 
Yama's messenger of death. 1 

The dove was also associated with fire. When the 
Kapota touches fire, Yama, whose messenger he is, is 
honoured; in a Buddhistic legend Agni, the God of Fire, 
assumes the shape of a dove when he is being pursued 
by Indra in the shape of a hawk (the Sanscrit name of 
which, by the way, is Kapotäri, the enemy of doves.) 2 In 
the 'scoppio del carro' festival at Florence the holy fire 
is renewed every Easter Eve, and at the moment of 
celebrating High Mass a stuffed bird, representing a dove, 
(called the dove of the Pazzi), is released from a pillar of 
fire-works in front of the altar, flies along a wire down 
the nave, and ignites the fire-works ön the festive car that 
is waiting outside the door. 3 Maury quotes as a reason why 
the Holy Ghost appears sometimes in the form of fire, 
and sometimes in that of a dove, the circumstance that 
in the Orient the dove was the emblem of generation and 
of animal heat. 4 The association with heat is retained 
in Christian art, where the Holy Dove is always depicted 
surrounded by rays of light or flames of fire. 

It is comprehensible that a bird symbolising generation 
should also come to represent the ideas of re-birth, resur- 
rection and salvation, which in the Unconscious are 
practically equivalent. 5 De Gubernatis 6 quotes a number of 
stories from folk-lore, in which the dove wams or saves 
from danger. The dove was the messenger of salvation in 
the Deluge myth, which is now known to represent a 

1 Rig-Veda, X, 165, 4. 

2 De Gubernatis: op. cit, p. 297. 

8 Weston: 'The Scoppio del Carro at Florence', Folk-Lore, 1905, 
Vol. XVI, pp. 182-4. 

4 Maury: op. cit, p. 179. 

5 See my Papers on Psycho-Analysis, Second Edition, 191 8, Ch. X. 
e De Gubernatis: op. cit, pp. 297-303, 


glorified birth-phantasy; the meaning is brought to clear 
expression in a sketch found in the catacombs of Rome, 
in which Noah is seen floating in a little box that flies 
open at the appearance of the dove with its leaf. 1 It is 
perhaps significant that in another Old Testament birth- 
myth the name of the hero, Jonah, is the same as the Hebrew 
word for dove. It was a dove also that appeared to the 
three young Hebrews in the furnace at Babylon and an- 
nounced to them their deliverance from the flames. The 
natives at Cape Grafton say that a dove brings the babtes 
to mothers in their dreams. 2 To the same group of ideas 
belongs the association between the dove and the re-birth 
rite of baptism, 3 both in the New Testament and in 
ecclesiastical decorative art. Jesus himself, the figure 01 
salvation and resurrection, is occasionally depicted in the 
form of a dove; 4 for example, in a lamp in Santa Cat- 
erina in Chiusi a dove is portrayed bearing an olive branch 
in its mouth and having a cross on its head. The dove 
is in the Catholic Church also an emblem of martyrdom, 
i. e. of attainment of eternal life through death. 

In early Christian art the soul of a dying saint was 
depicted as escaping from the mouth in the form of a dove, 5 
this being replaced in later art by the figure of a little child. 
In this equating of dove — child — soul — breath we see another 

1 Reproduced in Smith and Cheetham's Dictionary of Christian 
Antiquities, 1875, Vol. I, p. 575. 

2 Roth, cited by Rank: Die Lohengrinsage, 1911. S. 23. 

3 It is of interest that the German words for baptism and for 
dove {Taufe and Taube) are derived from the same root. 

4 We have seen in order the Iloly Ghost as a symbol ot the 
creative material, the creative agent, and the child created. (In later 
art he is often depicted in the form of a child instead ol that of a 
young man, just as Eros became replaced by Cupid.) 

5 Many examples are cited by Didron: Christian Iconography, 
Engl. Transl., 1896, Vol. I, pp. 460, 461; and Maury: Croyances et 
legendes du moyen-äge, 1896, Vol. II, p. 266. 



example of the infantile birth theory that was discussed 
earlier in this essay. 

An equally piain illustration of the Logos association 
of the dove is furnished by its connection with the idea 
of inspiration (spiro = I breathe). In Lybia a dove com- 
municated the sacred oracles, and in Dodona two doves 
performed the same function and were supposed to cry 
'Zeus was; Zeus is; Zeus will be; O Zeus, the greatest ot 
the Gods\ We noted earlier, in discussing the topics of 
speech and tongue, the important part played by the Holy 
Dove (Holy Ghost) in a similar connection. When 
St. Catherine of Alexandria confounded the learned doctors 
by her wisdom the Holy Dove kept flying over her head, 
and a dove, known to French art as the 'colombe 
inspiratrice \ is frequently depicted on the Shoulder of a 
great saint, speaking into his ear and thus inspiring him. 1 
The symbolic significance of this, which should be clear 
from the preceding chapter, may be further illustrated by 
quoting the following dream related by the Welsh poet 
Vaughan, in a letter written in 1694: ( I was told by a 
very sober and knowing person (now dead) that in his 
time, there was a young lad father and motherless, and 
soe very poor that he was forced to beg; butt att last 
was taken up by a rieh man, that kept a great stock ot 
sheep upon the mountains not far from the place where 1 
now dwell, who cloathed him and sent him into the 
mountains to keep his sheep. There in Summer time foll- 
owing the sheep and looking to their lambs he feil into a 
deep sleep; in which he dreamt, that he saw a beautifull 
young man with a garland of green leafs upon his head, 
and an hawk upon his fist: with a quiver füll ot Arrows 
att his back, Coming towards him (whistling several measures 

1 Maury: op. cit, pp. 267-9; Larousse: loc. cit. 


or tunes all the way) and att last lett the hawk fly att 
him, which (he dreämt) gott into his mouth and inward 
parts, and suddenly awaked in a great fear and conster- 
nation: butt possessed with such a vein, or gift of poetrie, 
that he left the sheep and went about the Countrey, 
making songs upon all occasions, and came to be the 
most famous Bard in all the Countrey in his time'. 1 

Etymology fully sustains our view of the sexual 
connotation of the dove idea, indicating its association 
both with phallicism and with the group of 'gaseous' ideas 
enumerated earlier. The word 'dove' comes from the 
Anglo-Saxon 'dufan' = to plunge into, and is probably 
allied to the Greek KoXujißiq == a diver; it is cognate with 
'dip\ 'dive', and 'deep', the notion of penetration evidently 
being the lundamental one. The more generic word 
'pigeon' comes from the Greek wuciqeiv = to chirp; from 
the latter also comes the word 'pipe', which has the 
meanings of a tube (cp. the Würzburg relief mentioned 
above), an instrument for making smoke, to chirp or sing, 
and, in slang, the male organ. A whole series of words 
are derived from the same root (probably of onomatopoetic 
origin), which mean 'to blow', 'the back parts', or 'child', 
and Jung 2 has pointed out that the connecting link of these 
three apparently disparate ideas is to be found in the 
common infantile notion that children are born from the 
rectum. Thus: (1) 'pop', 'puff', 'to poop' (= to pass 
flatus. Compare the French 'pet' = flatus, the same word 
in English meaning darling, little dear, and the German 
'Schatz' = darling, treasure, which also comes from a 

1 This letter, which has never been published, is to be found in 
the MS. Bodleiana, Aubrey 13, Fol. 340. I am indebted to Mr. L. C. 
Martin for calling my attention to it and for giving me the opportunity 
of making use of it. 

2 Jung: op. cit., S. 230. 


vulgär word for defaecation) ; (2) French 'poupee' and 
Dutch 4 pop', both meaning doli (German 'Puppe'), Latin 
4 pupus' = a child, ( pupula' == a girl, and English 'puppy' 
and l pupa', meaning the young of the dog and the butterfly 
respectively. That words of such widely different signification 
as 'pupil', 'fart', 'peep', 'fife', 'pigeon', 'puff, 'petard', 
and 'partridge' 1 should all be derived from the same root 
illustrates the astonishing propagating power possessed by 
sexual words, to which Sperber 2 has recently directed 
special attention. 

The choice of the dove for the purposes above 
mentioned was doubtless determined by many factors, 
perhaps by extrinsic ones as well as psychological ones: 
that it constituted a numerous genus and attracted much 
attention in ancient times is shewn by the fact alone that 
there existed in Sanscrit some twenty-five or thirty names 
for pigeon. 3 It is generally said that its use in Christian 
symbolism was clue to its association with the ideas of 
purity and immaculateness, but it is likely that cause and 
effect are here reversed; even its white colour cannot be 
cited in favour of this association, for most doves are not white, 
while other birds, e. g. swans, most often are. A more 
important feature is the tenderness they display in their 
love-relations, the activity of which must, as is evident from 
the extensive connotations related above, have vividly 
impressed itself upon the attention. Now this tenderness 
is chiefly manifested in a manner that is of particular 
interest to the present theme, in what is a very prominent 
characteristic of doves — namely, the soft, delightful cooing 

1 In view of the ancient belief that this bird could be impregnated 
by either the wind or the voice it is interesting that its name should 
enter into this series. 

2 Sperber; op. cit 

3 Larousse: loc. cit. 


that plays a leading part in their love-making; we still use 
the expression 'billing and cooing of turtle-doves' to 
denote a special relationship between lovers. In view of 
the extensive associations that subsist between the idea of 
birds in general, and of doves in particular, on the one 
hand and the group discussed in the previous chapter 
(sound, breath, sexuality, etc.) on the other, it seems to 
me probable that this striking feature of doves must have 
been a principal reason for the choice of them to sym- 
bolise phantasies based on the idea in question. This 
Suggestion may be illustrated by reference to the Christian 
belief that 'the voice of the turtle-dove is an "echo on 
earth of the voice of God'. 1 

This peculiar tenderness in the love-making of doves 
is to be correlated with a feature in the associations 
surrounding the idea of them on which I have only lightly 
touched — namely, femininity. It would lead us too far to 
enumerate instances of this association, but it is a curiously 
extensive one, so that one is forced to say that of all 
phallic emblems the dove is one of the most gentle and 
effeminate. The significance of this to our main theme 
will be indicated in the following section. 


The infant's psychical interests and digital manipu- 
lations relating to the lower alimentary orifice are early 
transferred to the nostril, which, from its nearness to a 
less objectional part of the alimentary canal, its relation to 
the sense of smell, its size, its connection with breath and 
with mucoid secretion, is well adapted for the purpose. A 
patient of mine used even to impregnate himself in his 
phantasy by inhaling through the nose breath that had 

1 Cortway: Solomon and the Solomonic Literature, 1899, p. 123. 


been exhaled from the mouth, 1 and in Genesis we read ot 
Yahweh using a nostril for the same purpose in the 
creation of Adam, from which it is evident what the 4 dust 
of the ground* out ot which Adam was moulded must 
have originally signified. 2 

By the time of the Christian era, however, a greater 
refinement had taken place, one corresponding with the 
increasing displacement that is to be observed in the 
progress of individual repression, and the nostril, which 
can receive a palpable gas, is replaced by the ear, which 
can receive only impalpable sound — for instance the Word 
of God — a rarefied abstraction of the primitive gas idea. 
That in the Madonna legend 3 the ear symbolises the lower 
alimentary orifice, and not the vagina, is a conclusion 
based not only on logic, for the idea of the vagina 
would be a meaningless intrusion into a series of 
themes that have nothing in common with it (they are 
all of infantile origin, while the child knows nothing of the 
existence of the vagina), but through numerous analyscs 
of persons in whom this orifice has acquired a symholical 
significance; such habits as nose and ear-picking, for 

1 Jahrbuch der Psychoanalyse, 191 2, Bd. IV, S. 598. 

2 I have elsewhere dealt with the symbolism of dirt at some length: 
Jahrbuch der Psychoanalyse, 191 3, Bd. V, S. 90, Fall IIL 

u That in this legend the ear was thought of as the receptive 
organ in a quite concrete sense is clear from the evidcnce produced 
earlier in this essay, and is proved by consideration of such a 
presentation as the Würzburg relief alone. To the numerous passages 
already quoted from the early Fathers the following two may be 
added: 'And because the devil, creeping in through the ear by tempt- 
ation, had wounded and given death to Eve, Christ entering by the 
ear to Mary, dried up all the vices of the heart, and cured the woman's 
wound by being born of the Virgin' (St. Zeno: Epist. ad Pulcheriam 
Augustam); 'None other was born of Mary, than He who glided in 
through her maternal ear, and filled the Virgin's womb' (St. Gauden- 
tius: De diversis Capitulis, Serm. xiii). 


instance, invariably prove on analysis to be derivatives 
of, and Substitutes for, anal masturbation. The exact 
symbolical equivalency of the two orifices, however, can 
be demonstrated quite apart from psycho-analysis. 

In several of the mediaeval pictures of hell the devil 
is portrayed in the act of swallowing sinners (through the 
mouth, of course) and excreting them through the ear 
alone, the cloaca alone, or through both indifferently and 
simultaneously; instances of each of these in Florence 
alone are to be found in the Baptisteria, in Orcagna's 
fresco in the Santa Maria Novella, and in Fra Angelico's 
picture in the Academy. We see here a complete parity 
of the two orifices, one which can be matched by beliefs 
drawn from another part of the world, India: In the 
Ramayana 1 a sun-hero, Hanumant, is described as entering 
into the mouth of a sea-monster and emerging through 
the 'other side' at the tail, evidently through the cloaca; 
in another part of the poem, however, he is made to 
emerge through the ear, the two orifices being again 
treated as equivalent. According to the Taitiriyaka- 
Upanishad, 2 the Apäna, or down-going breath, corresponds 
with the ear. 

The ear figures as the receptive organ in other and 
earlier myths than the Christian one, which is doubtless 
derived from them. The Mongolian legend of Maya, who 
was impregnated through this orifice during sleep, has 
been referred to already (p. 268). Just as Eve, after having 
been seduced by the 'serpent', tasted of the fruit of 
knowledge, 3 so Cassandra became a prophetess when the 

1 Frobenius; Das Zeitalter des Sonnengottes, 1904, Bd. I, 

s. 173, 174. 

2 I, 7> 1. 

3 i. e. the knowledge ot sexual matters. See Ludwig Levy: 

op. cit. 


( serpent' licked her ear. The Sumerian word-sign for 4 ear' 
in its earliest form was written by the pictograph of a pair 
of ears, with the phonetic value of ( wa' in the Sumerian 
and ( uznu' in the Semitic-Akkalian or Assyrian; it is 
defined in the bilingual cuneiform of about 2000 B. C. and 
later as 'the bent member\ 1 In these glosses the Semitic 
'uznu' or 'ear' is also defined as a title of the Mother- 
Goddess Ishtar, and particularly of her form as Antu, the 
Creatress and Goddess of generation, a usage which is 
explained as arising from the idea ( bend down, bend over' 
in sexual intercourse. 2 This is perhaps the source of the 
large ears assigned to the woman in the presence of the 
Father-God as figured on the ancient Babylonian seals 
described by Pinches. 3 This word-sign for ( ear* is moreover 
used as a synonym for the 'cedar', 4 which through its 
ever-greenness was the 4 Tree of Life' of the Garden of 
Eden in the Hebrew legend 5 and an emblem of the Mother- 
Goddess Ishtar. In the Persian cosmogony the first man 
was created by the Divine Being inserting his 'hand' into 
the ear of the female one; in another version, on which 
the preceding Babylonian my th throws light, it is his ( main 
branch' that is inserted. This 'main branch' is presumably 
the brauch held in the hand of the Father-God in the 
archaic Babylonian seal-cylinders of the third and fourth 
millenium B. C. ; 6 it may perfectly well be the origin of the 
modern expression 'olive branch' for a child, since the olive 

1 Prince: Sumerian Lexicon, 1908, pp. 1, 373; Barton: Babylonian 
Writing, 191 3, p. 179. 

2 Prince: op. cit, pp. 338, 339. 

3 Pinches: Preceedings of the Society of Biblical Archaeology, 
1917, Vol. xxix. 

4 Barton: loc. cit.; See also Muss-Arnolt: Assyrian Dictionary, 
p. 103. 

6 See Cheyne: Traditions of Ancient Israel, passim. 

6 Ward; Seal Cylinders of West Asia, 1910, pp. 96, etc. 


came in Greece and Rome to replace the cedar as the special 
tree of the Virgin Mother-Goddess, Athene. In connection 
with the ancient Semitic-Babylonian hymn on the 'Wailing 
of Ishtar' for the killing of her son-lqver Tamnuz the 
origin of the wailing of the Jewish women of Jerusalem 
for Tamnuz is described by Ezekiel in a familiär passage/ 
but it would seem that the word usually translated as ' cedar * 
might well mean 'ear', when the stanza in question 
would read: 

4 Ah me, my child (now) far-removed! 

My son-consort, the far-removed! 

For the sacred ear where the mother bore him, 

In Eanna, high and low there is weeping, 

Wailing for the house of their lord, the women raise ' . 2 

A faint indication of the meaning of this symbolism 
is furnished in the pictures 3 where the Archangel Gabriel 
makes his appearance through a door at the back of the 
Virgin, who is aware of his presence without seeing him. 
This expresses the same idea as the Kwakiutl myth of the 
hero who was conceived by the sun shining on the small 
of his mother's back. 4 We are not told whether Jesus 
was actually born, like Rabelais* Gargantua, through his 
mother's ear, as well as being conceived through it; the 
real passage is hinted at in St. Agobard's description 
(See p. 264) of how the holy fertilising principle, after 
entering by the ear, emerges 'through the golden gate\ 

1 Ezekiel viii, 14. 

2 This rendering, based on Longdon's translation in his 'Tamnuz 
and Ishtar', is by Dr. Jyotirmoy Roy of Calcutta, who also kindly 
suggested to me several of the preceding points. 

3 Many examples are referred to by Mrs. Jameson: Sacred and 
Legendary Art, 1890 edition, Vol. I, p. 124. 

4 Boas and Hunt; Tesup Expedition. Bureau of Ethnology, 
Vol. I, p. 80. 


That the danger of this form of conception is regarded 
by Catholics as not having entirely passed is shewn by 
the custom with which all nuns still comply of protecting 
their chastity against assault by keeping their ears con- 
stantly covered, a custom which Stands in a direct historical 
relation to the legend forming the subject of this essay. 1 
This is the acme of chastity, for it protects even against 
the most innocent form of conception, one reserved for 
the most modest women, An Indian legend, which may 
serve as a pendant to the Persian one mentioned above, 
well illustrates this connection between aural conception 
and modesty. Kunti, the mother of the five Pandava 
princes, the great heroes of the Mahabarata, when 
still a virgin, made use of a mantra charm to test its 
alleged power of calling up the Gods. It worked, and the 
Sun God appeared to her. She became very confused 
and bade him go, but he said that as she had called him 
she could not refuse him a reward. On learning that the 
reward the God wanted was carnal knowledge she explained 
that she was a Virgin. To this objection the Sun God 
suggested sexual intercourse via the ear, and to this she 
consented, with the result that the hero Karna (whose 
name means ear) was conceived. 2 The same association 
with extreme innocence is also indicated in the passage 
quoted above from Moliere (p. 268). 

We may conclude the present topic by briefly con- 
sidering an animal myth which offers interesting resemblances 
to the legend under discussion and which also possesses 
certain historical connections with it. The myth of the 

1 See Tertullian: De Virginibus Velandis. 

2 Mahabharat-Adiparva, Ch. III, 1-20. I am indebted to Dr. Roy 
for calling my attention to this legend. 


phoenix and other fire-birds, of which the aureole-surrounded 
Holy Dove is the lineal descendant, is paralleled by that 
of the Salamander, the fabulous lizard born, like those, ot 
fire. It would not be easy to imagine animals more unlike 
each other than a dove and a lizard, or crocodile, and 
yet the positions both have occupied in mythology and 
religion shew a far-reaching similarity, one which should 
throw a new light on the legend of the Virgin Mary. 
The lizard has been an extensive object of worship, by the 
Slavs in Europe as late as the sixteenth Century, 1 by the 
Egyptians in the form of the crocodile, by the Mexicans in 
that of the alligator; the crocodile is the protective totem 
of one of the chief Bechuanaland tribes. 2 It was specially 
sacred to the sun, and was, largely on that account, 
adopted by the Gnostics as a symbol of the Life-Giver; 
the Sun God Sebek w r as figured as a crocodile-headed 
man. On the other hand it was identified at Nubti with 
Set, one of the fore-runners of our devil, and — like most 
phallic animals, lion, dragon, serpent, etc. — it had to he 
overcome by the young God-Hero; thus at Adfou it was 
supposed to have been speared by the young Sun God 
Horus. In the Book of Gates the monster serpent Apep 
is described as being accompanied by a friend in the 
shape of a crocodile which had a tail terminating in the 
head of a serpent, its name being Sessi. 

There seem to have been two principal associations 
between the idea of a lizard, or crocodile, and that ol 
the Deity. One was the Observation that ( it veils its eyes 
with a thin transparent membrane which it draws down 
from the upper lid, so as to see without being seen, 
which is the attribute of the Supreme Deity' (Plutarch); 
this idea is naturally connected with that of the Sun- 

1 Morfill: The Religious Systems of the World, p. 272. 

2 Berit: The Ruined Cities of Mashonaland, 1891, p. 15. 


Father, 1 and in Egypt the crocodile was the chief symbol 
of Cheops, the 'Ever-Existent Eye*. A more important 
association, however, and one which is closely related to 
the group of ideas under discussion here, was that the 
crocodile was the symbol of silence, being 'the only land 
animal which lacks the use of its tongue' (Pliny); 4 it is 
said to have been made an emblem of the Deity, as being 
the sole animal destitute of a tongue. For the Divine 
Reason Stands not in need of voice, but Walking along a 
silent path and rule guides mortal affairs according to 
justice* (Plutarch). Representing the silence of the wise, it 
became the emblem of the mind, of reason, of intelligence, 
and particularly of wisdom; 2 as such it figures on the 
breast of Minerva, the Goddess of Wisdom. The only 
instance of its use in this respect that I know of in 
Christian art is in Seville, where one dating from the 
Moorish occupation still Stands over the portal of the 
entrance to the Cathedral leading from the Patio de los 
Naranjos; there is, of course, the well-known crocodile on 
St. Theodore's column in the Piazzetta in Venice, which 
doubtless had an apotropaeic signification. 

The attributes of the crocodile that have attracted 
interest thus appear to be mainly negative: it is an animal 
which has no visible genital organs, and is said to have no 
tongue and to be dumb — two ideas which, as we have 
seen earlier, symbolise impotence. 

Side by side, however, with this conception of the 
crocodile as an impotent animal, one having the most 
elementary defects, we find the precise opposite — namely, 
the idea that it represents a glorification of phallic power; 
consideration of this remarkable antithesis will prove highly 
instructive for the main theme of this essay. The phallic 

1 Cp. Chapter V. 

2 For the symbolism of this see pp. 135, 334. 


significance of the crocodile may be suspected from the 
circumstance alone that it is closely associated with the 
ideas of wisdom, the sun, and the snake, but grosser facts 
than these. can be cited. In the text of Unas, written 
during the Sixth Dynasty, are passages expressing the 
desire that a deceased person may attain in the next world 
to the virility of the crocodile and so become 'all-powerful 
with women'. 1 At the present day in the Egyptian Soudan 
the belief is acted on that the penis of the crocodile eaten 
with spices is the most potent means of increasing sexual 
vigour in the male. 2 Both in Ancient Egypt and in the 
modern Soudan the belief has prevailed that the crocodile 
has the habit of carrying off women for sexual purposes. 
Two physiological facts concerning the animal probably 
contribute to these ideas: the copulatory act is unusually 
ardent and lasts a long time; and the male organ, 3 though 
never visible while the animal is alive — being concealed 
within the cloaca — is unusually large. 4 

The ancients, in pondering over the question of how 
the crocodile propagated its species, indicated consideration 
of both these opposite attitudes. They concluded that it 
must take place in some way that expressed the animal's 
independence of the ordinary means and, following the 
path of associations indicated above, reached the belief 

1 Budge: op. cit, pp. 127, 128. 

2 Bousfield: 'Native Methods of Treatment of Disease in Kassala', 
Third Report of the Wellcome Research Laboratories, p. 274. Stanley: 
Through the Dark Continent, 1878, Vol. I, p. 253. Budge: op. cit, 
p. 128. 

3 It is perhaps of some interest in the present connection to note 
that this organ is situate in the rectal part of the cloaca, being 
separated from the anterior urinary Chamber by a wide transverse fold. 
Of further interest in relation with the 'gaseous' group of ideas is the 
circumstance that during the rutting period a pungent odour is emitted 
from the submaxillary glands of the creature. 

4 Gadow; in the Cambridge Natural History, Vol. VIII, p. 445- 


that the female conceivea, like the Virgin Mary, through 
the ear. According to this the crocodile would represent 
a force greater even that that of the Deity whose Word 
was all-powerful and all-creating/ for to execute its wishes 
it needed not even Speech, being possessed of the still 
more potent Silence of the Wise. We have here, there- 
fore, a beautiful example of the ( omnipotence of thought', 
which is evidently higher than the { omnipotence of speech'-; 
invisible and silent action is the highest limit of imaginable 
power. The ear is the orifice best designed to receive 
thought, even though this be inaudible to the uninitiated. 

According to King, 2 it was this belief about the 
crocodile's natural Kistory that later made it come to be 
regarded by the early Christians as 'the type of the 
generation of the Word, that is, the Logos or Divine 
Wisdom'. Plutarch (De Iside et Osiride) makes a similar 
Statement, about the cat: he refers to the belief that the 
cat ' conceives through its ears, and brings forth its young 
through its mouth; and the Word, or Logos, is also 
conceived through the ear and expressed through the 
mouth'. In the Egyptian Book of the Dead four crocodiles 
are said to reside in the four quarters of the world, and 
to attack the dead in order to seize the magic words on 
which they depend for existence in the Other World. 3 

The great characteristic on which I wish to lay 
emphasis in the preceding beliefs concerning the crocodile 
is their striking ambivalency, Herodotus 4 noticed that the 
creature was held sacred in some parts of Egypt and was 
slain as a noxious reptile in others, and the double attitude 

1 Like, tor instance, that of Ptah (First Dynasty). 

2 King: The Gnostics and their Remains, Second Edition, 1887, 
p. 107. 

3 Budge: op. cit, Vol. II, p. 239. 

4 Herodotus: ii, 69. 


here indicated may be traced throughout Egyptian religion. 
We have remarked above on the contrasting beliefs 
whereby the crocodile was endowed, now with absolute 
impotence, now with the maximum of procreative power. 

Proceeding from this we may venture to develop a 
view that will afford a more complete answer to the 
question instituted at the beginning of the present inquiry 
— namely, why breath was chosen in the Virgin Mary 
legend to represent the fertilising material. The view is 
that the iciea of gaseons fertiltsation constitutes a reaction 
to an unusuahy intensc castration-phantasy, It is one of 
the most remarkable of the various modes of dealing with 
the primordial Oedipus Situation. 

The idea of intestinal gas is inextricably associated 
with three others — of the father, of the male organ, and 
of power. We have already considered here and there 
each of these connections, so that only a few words need 
be added by way of summary. 

Little need be said about the association between the 
idea of father and the various 'gaseous' ones discussed 
above, for in most of the examples quoted the latter have 
constituted attributes of the Heavenly Father himself, the 
Deity. The breath of a Maori chief ( = father) is so powerful 
that he dare not blow on the fire, for a brand might be 
taken from the fire by a slave and so cause his death; or 
the sacred breath might communicate its qualities to the 
fire, which would pass them on to the pot on the fire, 
whence they would reach the meat in the pot, the future 
eater of which would surely die. 1 In the phoenix mytfy 
one of the most characteristic of the whole series, the 

1 Taylor: op. cit, p. 165. 


idea of piety to the father is of central importance, a sign 
of ambivalency. That this association applied not only to 
the more refined derivatives, but also to the gaseous 
notion itself, is indicated by the fact that oriental nations, 
and also Rome, worshipped a special Deity who presided 
over the function in question. 1 The connotations of intestinal 
gas are almost exclusively male and predominantly refer 
to the father, one reason for this being fairly obvious in 
the greater reticence displayed by women and the much 
greater ppenness by men in regard to the act concerned, 
especially during effort (e. g. coitus). 

The association with the idea of the male organ has 
also been pointed out and explained above (p. 329). Some- 
thing more may be added on the subject of initiation 
ceremonies, for it is now recognised that these are the 
expression of castration threats. 2 Throughout Australia 
women are strictly forbidden ever to see the bull-roarer 
(See p. 285), so essential is the relation of this to the 
idea of maleness; the Chepara tribe punish with death 
a woman who casts eyes upon it, or a man who shews 
it to a woman. 3 In Brazil also no woman may see the 
equivalent jurupari pipes on pain of death. 4 The association 
penis — gas (noise) — castration is well illustrated by the 
Kakian initiation ceremonies, the following account of which 
I abstract from Frazer. 5 The Kakian ceremonial house is 
situate under the därkest trees in the depth of the forest and 
is so built as to admit so little light that it is impossible 
to see what goes on within; the boys are conducted there 
blindfold. When all are assembled before the house the 

1 Bourke: Scatologic Rites of All Nations, 1891, pp. 129, 154-7. 

2 See Reik: Probleme der Religionspsychologie, 1919, Cap. 3, 
Die Pubertätsriten der Wilden'. 

3 Lang: op. cit., p. 34. 

4 Lang: op. cit. p. 43. 

5 Frazer: Balder the Beautiful, 191 3, VoL II, pp. 249, 250. 


High Priest calls aloud on the devils, and immediately a 
hideous uproar is heard to proceed from the house. It is 
made by men with bamboo trumpets who have been 
secretly introduced into the building, but the women think 
it is made by the devils and are greatly terrified. Then 
the priests enter, followed by the boys, one at a time. 
As soon as each boy disappears within the precincts a dull 
chopping sound is heard, a fearful cry rings out, and a 
sword or spear, dripping with blood, is thrust through the 
roof of the house. This is a token that the boy's head 
has been cut off, and that the devil has carried him away 
to regenerate him. In some places the boys are pushed 
through an opening made in the shape of a crocodile's 
jaws or a cassowary's beak, and it is then said that the 
devil has swallowed them. The boys remain in the shed 
for five or nine days. Sitting in the dark, they hear the 
blast of the bamboo trumpets, and from time to time the 
sound of musket shots and the clash of swords. As they 
sit in a row cross-legged, the chief takes his trumpet and, 
placing the mouth of it in the hands of each lad, speaks 
through it in stränge tones, imitating the voice of the 
spirits; he wams the lads, under pain of death, to observe 
the rules of the Kakian society. 

The association with the idea of pozver has also been 
manifest throughout all the examples quoted above, and 
is an extraordinarily intimate one. To create or destroy 
with a word, a wind, a breath, or a vapour obviously 
implies a higher degree of power than to do so with an 
instrument of might, however wonderful and impressive 
this might be. With the primary idea (intestinal gas) the 
sense of power is in adult life usually manifested in the 
form of contempt; in many countries the passage of wind 
is regarded as the deadliest possible insult and in certain 
circumstances may involve such penalties as expulsion from 



the tribe or even death. 1 In an analysis, carried out from 
a different point of view, of two Old Testament myths, 
Lorenz 2 has shewn how the might of God against his most 
desperate foes was displayed, in the one case by means 
of wind, in the other through the blowing of trumpets. 
The myths in question are those of the destruction of the 
tower of Babel and the walls of Jericho, and he shews, 
as I think convincingly, that both of these are variants 
of the Titan motive. In the first of them the destruction 
is brought about by a mighty wind that disperses the 
people by confounding their speech, in the second by God 
getting his chosen people to give a loud cry and to bloiv 
their trumpets. 

The preceding considerations are in füll accord with 
the conclusions I have reached on the basis of psycho- 
analytical experience with actual persons. In such study 
it becomes piain that the infantile complex concerned with 
gaseous fertilisation is integrally related to the castration 
thoughts. The total complex is a characteristically ambivalent 
one, corresponding with the child's ambivalent attitude 
towards his father, and its manifestations express at once 
a denial of his power and an affirmation of his supreme 
might; his impotency and his omnipotence. Through the 
conception of the male organ as a flatus-emitting agency 
(See p. 329) these two opposite components become fused 
into a perfect unity. 

Further psycho-analytic study throws still more light 
on the nature of this paradoxical attitude. It has elucidated 
the source of the two-fold attitude towards the father. The 
hostile and depreciatory one, the wish that he were 
impotent, originates in the rivalry between the boy and 

1 Bourke: op. cit, pp. 161, 162. 

2 Lorenz: 'Das Titan -Motiv in der allgemeinen Mythologie \ 
Intago, 1913. Bd. II, S. 50-3. 


father over the possession of the mother. The admiration, 
which exalts the father's greatness, has a more personal 
source: it is a Substitute for the primary narcissism and 
feeling of omnipotence which the child is unable to sustain 
in the face of experience, a failure which is largely con- 
tributed to by the presence of the obviously powerful 
Father. By transferring his own congenital sense of omnipo- 
tence 1 to the Father and identifying himself with him, he 
is enabled to maintain the feeling of power for some 
time longer, until the time comes for him to discover his 
Father's limitations also, when he has to repeat the same 
psychological process by substituting a heavenly for an 
earthly Father. There is a further important gain in both 
cases — namely, the reconciliation with a potentially hostile 
being, and the allaying of a sense of sin that arose from 
disobedient or hostile thoughts concerning him. 

The curious way in which the attitude towards the 
Father is dealt with and reconciled in the compromise 
we have considered above, and even the specific form of 
this compromise, is also a mirror of changes within the 
individual himself, changes which are only secondarily 
transferred to the idea of the Father. For, in my experience, 
the particular group of phantasies that have constituted 
the main theme of this essay arise in persons who, chiefly 
on account of the incest barrier, have experienced a 
difficulty in passing from the pregenital stage of develop- 
ment to that of the genital one, 2 and who have thereby 
reacted by reverting to the former stage. In this earlier 
stage, which is principally composed of a combination of 
sadism and anal-erotism, the element most suitable for 

1 See Ferenczi: op. cit, Ch.VlII, 'Stages in the Development 
in the Sense of Reality*. 

2 See Freud; Sammlung kleiner Schriften zur Neurosenlehre, 
Vierte Folge, Cap. III, 'Die Disposition zur Zwangsneurose*. 



fusion with the genital attitude that could not be encom- 
passed is that of the passing of flatus, with its close 
relation to the sense of power/ to expulsion and projection. 
As was pointed out above, the uniting of these elements 
to the actual genital one, in the phantasy of a flatus- 
expelling organ, fulfils all the wished-for conditions to an 
extent that one could hardly otherwise conceive. That the 
idea of supreme power is here recaptured under the guise 
of phantasies that have numerous feminine, anal, masochistic 
and homosexual implications— e. g. by means of the gentle 
dove — is in entire accord with the fundamental method 
of Christian salvation, so that further studies on these 
lines should lead to a deeper understanding of the psycho- 
logy of this idea. 


If we now regard the theme as a whole, we cannot 
but be impressed by the ingenuity and fine feeling with 
which an idea so repellent to the adult mind has been 
transformed into a conception not merely tolerable, but 
lofty in its grandeur. In the endeavour to represent the 
purest and least sensual form of procreation that can be 
imagined, the one most befitting to the Creator Himself, 
the mind worked surely and on the soundest lines by 
reaching for its basis to the crudest and grossest idea 
obtainable; it is always through such violently extreme 
contrasts, as we know from the analytic study of literature, 
that the grandest psychological effects are achieved. Of 
all infantile theories of procreation that persist in the 
Unconscious there is perhaps not one more repellent than 
that described above, and no more astounding contrast 

1 See mv Papers on Psvcho-Analvsis. 2nd. Ed.. d. 546. 


could well be conceived than the original form of this and 
the form given to it in the legend here analysed. In the 
original one we have a Father incestuously impregnating 
his daughter (i. e. a son his mother) by expelling intestinal 
gas, with the help of the genital organ, into her lower 
alimentary orifice, one through which her child is then 
born. In the legend, the site of exit is completely omitted, 
and that of ingress is denoted by the receptive organ of 
music, an orifice with fewer sensual implications than any 
other in the whole body, than the navel, the mouth, or 
even the eye. What more innocent symbol exists than 
that gentle messenger of hope and love, the dove? And 
in the tender breath of the dove, reinforced by the solemn 
words of the Archangel, who would recognise the repulsive 
material thus symbolised, with its odour replaced by the 
fragrance of Wies, its moisture and warmth by the aureole 
of light and fire, and its sound by the gentle cooing — 4 the 
echo on earth of the very Word of God\ 

The Christian myth is perhaps the most gigantic and 
revolutionary phantasy in history, and its striking charac- 
teristic is the completely veiled way in which this phantasy 
is carried through to success under the guise of sacrificial 
Submission to the Father's will. It is therefore entirely 
appropriate that such an important episode as the birth 
of the hero should be portrayed by symbolisms that 
signify a complete denial of the Father's power, and which 
at the same time, under the mantle of the Father, glorify 
the son's might in the most supreme terms imaginable. 

Turning lastly to the accompanying picture by Martini 1 
(see Frontispiece), painted over six hundred years ago, 
we see, although its marvellous colour cannot be here 

1 The picture is usually attributed to both Simone Martini and 
Lippo Memmi, but the latter painted only the setting and the angels 
at the side, which are not here reproduced. 


reproduced, that the whole theme which has occupied us 
is portrayed with a charm and fidelity hardly to be 
surpassed. One of our leading critics, Edward Hutton, 
writes of it: 'Who may describe the colour and the 
delicate glory of this work? The hand of man can do no 
more; it is the most beautiful of religious paintings*. To 
shew how deeply the artist has reached for his inspiration 
I will call the reader's attention to one little detail, a trait 
characteristic of Martini's Annunciation pictures, though 
often copied from him later by other painters. 1 It has to 
do with the campanulas that stand between Gabriel and 
the Virgin. Our artist indicated, quite unconsciously, why 
the lily is the flower chosen for the present purpose. Ot 
all flowers the lily is the most noted for the delicate 
fragrance of its odour: better than the luscious *and half- 
lascivious rose, the heavy Jasmine, or the fleeting wild 
flowers, the lily can serve as no other flower can to 
express the acme of purity that is necessary to conceal 
the exactly opposite original idea. In the picture, the artist 
makes the words of Gabriel, which are the counterpart of 
the Breath of God, pass through the lilies, as if to purify 
the fertilisation principle of the last trace of early un- 
cleanness, to cleanse it of any possible remaining dross. 
In work done, as this must have been, under the 
direct inspiration of the Unconscious, we realise the difference 
between true and pseudo-art. It also illustrates how happy 
was the union between Christian religion and art, before 
the divorce came with the decadence of the Renaissance 
and the reign of 'Puritanism' in religion. The whole 

1 For instance, by Taddeo Bartoli (in the Siena Academy). A 
very clear hint as to the function ol the holy words is given by those 
painters who make them issue from the Archangel's mouth in the form 
of a snake. (An example of this is offered by the altar at Kloster- 
neuburg, reproduced by Beissel: Geschichte der Verehrung Marias in 
Deutschland während des Mittelalters, 1909, S. 466.) 


topic of this essay shews how important was the part 
played by aesthetic feeling in the elaboration of religious 
beliefs — the legend we have analysed may well be compared 
to an exquisite poetic conception — a fact that is throughout 
intelligible when we remember how intim ate is the association 
between the unconscious roots of both. Religion has always 
used art in one form or another, and must do so, for 
the reason that incestuous desires invariably construct their 
phantasies out of the material provided by the unconscious 
memory of infantile coprophilic interests; this is the inner 
meaning of the phrase 'Art is the handmaid of Religion*. 
The increasing Separation between the two, and the 
diverting of art to other purposes, constitutes the first 
serious stage in the transformation of religion, and 
in the supersession of the pleasure-principle by the reality- 


The aim of this essay is to raise the question whether the 
science of Psychology can ever shew us how to abolish 
War. It is a question that must have occurred to many 
of those who have been able to reflect on the events of 
the past months, and it is one of the most far-reaching 
questions that mankind as a whole has to face, one on 
which its future may to a great extent depend. We are 
beginning to realise as never before — for it is to be sup- 
posed that at the time of other cataclysms, such as during 
the destruction of the Roman Empire, mankind was less 
conscious of itself than now — how powerful is the check 
that War may impose on the advance of civilisation, and 
the sight, together with the accompanying horrors, has 
naturally stimulated the desire, always widespread even in 
times of peace, to devise if possible a means of surmounting 
this formidable obstacle. 

This desire has already manifested itself in the formula- 
tion of many schemes, mainly legal and political — from 
Systems of international policing to Conventions for compul- 
sory arbitration — and the evidently unworkable nature of 
these may be taken as a measure of the emotional pres- 
sure that has brought them into being. It is characteristic 

1 Published in the Sociological Review, 191 5, Vol. VIII, p. 167. 



of emotional states that they lead to attempts at 
immediate action instead of to thought, the preliminary 
investigation necessary to secure suitable action being 
dispensed with. The general attitude of pacifists is that, 
both on the moral and the material side, the evils of War 
are evidently greater than its benefits, even if the latter 
are admitted, and that consequently steps must be taken 
at all costs to prevent its occurrence. The sense of urgency 
is feit so acutely that any calm study of the factors 
involved is regarded as an intolerable delay, while any 
expression of doubt as to the desirability of the goal is 
repudiated with impatience. Ill-considered and, in all prob- 
ability, unsuccessful action is the natural result of such 
an attitude. Certain cooler-headed and more thoughtful 
people, on the other hand, who take a longer view of the 
question, realise better its complexity, and see that the 
matter demands an intimate knowledge of human motives, 
desires and emotions. They therefore turn to Psychology 
for assistance in a problem which obviously belongs to its 
domain, and ask psychologists hovv it is to be sölved. It 
is the purpose of the present essay to consider what kind 
of answer can be given to such an inquiry. 

Now this answer must always be the same whenever 
any science is approached with a similar question, one 
with a purely utilitarian aim. Suppose, for example, that 
an engineer is asked to devise a plan for carrying out a 
given practical purpose, e. g., building a bridge. He can 
answer the questions about the possibility of the under- 
taking, the means that would have to be adopted, and 
the probable cost, in lives and money, that would be 
incurred. What would not be in his sphere is the question 
of whether or no the undertaking shotdd be entered upon. 
All he can do is to supply the data relating to the points 
just mentioned, leaving to the promoters of the undertaking 


the decision of whether they considered it worth while 
to carry it out. Science is thus the handmaid of the 
human will: it is not within her provtnce to dictate what 
ought to be done in a given Situation, but only to point out 
what will have to be done if a desired end is to be attained. 

Psychology, however, holds a peculiar rank among the 
sciences in that it is concerned also with the instrument 
of valuation, the mind. When approached with a utilitarian 
problem, therefore, it has two additional functions to fulfil 
which do not appertain to any other science. In supplying 
the data to enable a decision to be made it has first to 
answer the three questions mentioned above, viz., as regards 
possibility, means, and cost. But there are two further 
sets of important data that Psychology has to supply. 
The first of these relates to the decision that a given end 
must be achieved, the second to the choice of means. 
Fundamentally the two points come to the same, it being 
the place of Psychology in both cases to call attention to 
the mental factors that may unconsci ously infl uence decision , 
so that they may be taken into consideration in making 
a judgement. This ,is a matter on which the greatest 
emphasis has to be laid, because the importance of such 
factorS is commonly neglected or eise grossly underestimated, 
and it will therefore be discussed here at some little length. 
Coming now to the question at issue, whether Psychology 
can teach us how to abolish War, we see that the first 
thing to do is to re-state the problem under the following 
headings: Is it possible? If so, how can it be done? What 
would the cost involve? And, finally, what is the füll 
significance of the desire to accomplish this end? 

It may as well be said at once that Psychology can 
as yet give no positive answer to any one of these 
questions, a fact which for the impatient will forthwith 
dispose of any further interest in whatever it may have 


to say on the matter. With those, however, who are chary 
of nostrums, and brave enough to suspend their judgement 
until the painful process of attaining truth is achieved, the 
following considerations should carry weight. In the first 
place, Psychology is already in a position to offer a con- 
siderable body of information directly bearing on the 
problem, and, in the second place, it is only through a 
richer and deeper knowledge of Psychology that a final 
Solution of it is possible. It is hardly likely that this con- 
clusion will be doubted on reflection, for it should be 
evident that even physical factors, e. g., economic ones, 
owe their influence only to the effect they have on human 
motives and instincts: it is in the sphere of these latter 
that we have to seek in order to obtain a better under- 
standing of the causes of War. 

It will be expedient to open the discussion by con- 
sidering further the important matter mentioned above — 
namely, the influence of emotional factors on decision and 
judgement. Within the last twenty years a method of 
investigation, known as psycho-analysis, has been devised and 
elaborated by Professor Freud of Vienria, which has permitted 
access to a hitherto veiled part of the mind, designated 
the Unconscious, and the explorations thus carried out 
have yielded information of very considerable value about 
the unsuspected significance of this more emotional region 
of the mind. It would appear from these investigations 
that man is endowed with a far more intense emotional 
nature than is generally imagined, and that powerful 
barriers exist the function of which is to restrain its mani- 
festations. All the emotions of which we become aware, 
either in ourselves or in others, represent only tricklings 
through from the volcanic reservoir that is pent up in the 
unconscious region of the mind, i.e., that region of which 
we are unconscious. The dams that impede a freer flow 


of emotion are the restrictions against uncurbed action 
that have been painfully acquired during the civilisation 
of the race and the training of the individual, and the 
reason for their existence is the fact that the pent-up or 
'repressed' emotional life is of a rüde and savage character 
incompatible with the demands of civilised Standards. In 
this buried mental life, which is prevented from readily 
translating itself into action, phantasies play a very extensive 
part, and these are fundamentally of a pleasurable kind. 
Any disagreeable piece of reality that may succeed in 
penetrating to this region of the mind is at once treated 
as material to be used for the building up of some pleasur- 
able fancy; it is remoulded in terms of some wish, and 
thus robbed of all its unpleasant features. The Unconscious 
cannot endure any contradiction of its desires and imaginings, 
any more than an infant can; intelligibly so, because it 
mainly comprises the infantile and inherited portion of our 
mind. Perception and, in an even higher degree, judgement 
are thus grossly distorted by these powerful emotional 

We are, it is true, to some extent familiär with this 
process of distortion in conscious mental life also. The 
expression ( the wish is father to the thought' is proverbial, 
and everyone will admit, Tri ffie äbstfäct, ^Hat prejudices)can 
influence opinions and judgements, at least those of other 
people. The science of History, and in a very imperfect 
way that of Law, makes some attempt at estimating and 
allowing for errors due to this factor, and in scientific 
research it is generally recognised that evidence of an 
emotional influence (jealousy, ambition, etc.) casts suspicion 
on the validity of the conclusions and even on that of 
the observations. But what is not generally recognised is 
that influences of this nature are far more extensively 
exerted than mtght be imagined, and that the most potent 


ones are those proceeding from sources of which we know 
nothing, namely from the unconscious region of the mind. 
In an emotional Situation, such as is evoked by a horror 
of war, any judgement arrived at will infallibly be dependent 
only in part on the external evidence; in a greater part 
on unconscious emotional influences. If, therefore, we desire 
to form a judgement purely on the relevant evidence, i. e., 
a judgement that is in accord with reality and so is likely 
to be permanent, it is essential to neutralise the influence 
of those other factors, and this, of course, cannot be done 
until it is known precisely what they are. As will presently 
be explained, this knowledge can be adequately basecl 
only on a study of Individual Psychology. 

Similar considerations apply to the causes of War. 
The causes of any given war are exceedingly numerous, 
and these are usually so inter-related as to make the 
unravelling of them one of the most difficult of tasks; it 
is further notorious that success in this undertaking is rarely 
more than approximate. The most important part of the 
task is, of course, not the mere enumeration of a list of 
causes, but the ordering of them according to their scale 
of values. They constitute a hierarchy in this respect, and 
may be divided into the exciting causes, which merely 
precipitate the war, and the deeper or more underlying 
ones, which bear the main responsibility for it. Whereas 
populär opinion concentrates its attention almost exclusively 
on the former, the philosophic historian seeks to uncover 
and comprehend the latter. How difficult this is may be 
judged from the circumstance alone that it takes about 
a Century 4 before all the material is published on which 
alone valid conclusions can be founded. In the present 
war, for example, it would seem impossible as yet to 
answer even the apparently elementary and simple question 
of which was the more important causative factor 


leading up to it — the so-called inevitable conflict between 
Teuton and Slav or the need for German expansion 
overseas; in other words, whether the War is primarily 
one between Germany and Russia or between Germany 
and England. 

Supposing, however, that all the political factors 
bringing about a certain war have been elucidated, we 
are still left with the problem of the causation of war in 
general. That is to say, the question arises whether there 
is not in the human mind some deep need, or some set 
of recurrently acting agents, which tends to bring about 
wars more or less regularly, and to find or create pretexts 
for wars whatever the external Situation may be. This 
would involve the conclusion that man cannot live for 
more than a certain period without indulging his warlike 
impulses, and that history comprises an alternation of wars 
and recuperations. Another possibility, not identical with 
the preceding, though allied to it, is that man tends to 
prefer the Solution of various socio-political problems by 
means of War to their Solution in any other way: this might 
be because of the instinct just referred to or eise because 
the other Solutions are more difficult and irksome, or it 
might be due to both reasons combined. There is 
undoubtedly much that could be adduced in favour of this 
view, unpalatable as it may seem, and we should be 
prepared in any unbiassed investigation for the possibility 
that it is true. We have, for instance, the unvarnished 
fact that wars do invariably recur in spite of the best 
intentions to the contrary, and it might very plausibly be 
argüed that what happens historically is a periodic out- 
burst of warlike impulses followed by a revulsion against 
War — usually lasting for one or two generations — which is 
again succeeded by a forgetting of the horrors involved 
and a gradually accumulating tension that once more leads 


to an explosion. This feature of periodicity would be well 
worthy of a special study, 1 but we must leave aside here 
historical questions of a kind which äre not directly 
germane to the psychölogical considerations of the present 

Returning to the problem of the Psychology of War, 
we may at this point consider an objection that is likely 
to be brought against the mode of approach here adopted, 
namely, that of Individual Psychology. Many will take the 
view that, since War is obviously a social problem, it should 
be to either Sociology or Social Psychology that we should 
have recourse in order to obtain a better understanding 
of the nature of it. This might even more strongly be 
urged in the case of modern war, which is essentially the 
affair of whole societies, and in which the social pheno- 
mena of imitation, contagion, crowd psychology, and mass 
Suggestion play an important part. Fully to meet this 
objection would necessitate a detailed discussion, impossible 
here, of the relation of Social to Individual Psychology in 
general. There are two schools of thought in the matter, 
the main point at issue being as follows: On the one hand 
it is contended that it is possible to pursue the subject 
of Social Psychology independently of the data afforded 
by Individual Psychology, on the ground that there are 
peculiar data pertaining to the interaction of social mass 
units which are provided by the former subject and which 
are accessible only to those who make a study of it. The 
second school maintain the contrary of this, namely, that 
Social Psychology must throughout be based on Individual 

1 Several writers, for example, have commented on the interesting 
circumstance that on the four last occasions the turn of the Century 
has roughly coincided with a general European war of the same nature, 
consisting, namely, in a coalition against the predominance of the most 
powerful nation. 


Psychology, for three reasons. In the first place, the uncon- 
scious emotional influences and prejudices spoken of above 
affect judgement to a much greater exten t in the domain of 
the mental than in that of the non-mental sciences, so that 
a Student of Social Psychology is at a grave disadvantage 
unless he has on the basis of Individual Psychology sub- 
mitted his own mind to a thorough analysis and in this 
way acquired a knowledge and control of the distorting 
influences in question. In the second place, the study of 
motives, emotions, instincts, etc., can for technical reasons 
be properly carried out only by the methods of Individual 
Psychology, where the material is susceptible of objective 
experimental control. Finally, there is good reason to 
believe that in what may be called the ( social situations' 
that are the subject of socio-psychological study no nevv 
factor is added that may not be observed apart from 
such situations. 'Social' mental activities are nothing 
more nor less than the sum of individual mental activities. 
The reason for this has been pointed out by Wilfred 
Trotter, 1 who in his essay on the most exquisite of socio- 
psychological forces — the herd instinct — adduced considera- 
tions to shew that man is literally never anything but a 
social animal, and that all the agents specially insisted on 
by social psychologists, mob infection, press Suggestion, 
etc., are constantly operative under all circumstances. The 
reason why some social psychologists have been misled 
into adopting the opposite conclusion is largely that the 
manifestations of certain instincts acted on by * social 
situations' may differ somewhat in their external form 
from those occurring apart from these situations, the under- 
lying unity of the two sets being thus overlooked. 

1 Sociological Review, 1908. Reprinted in his Instincts of the Herd 
in Peace and War, 1916. 


Something may profitably be said at this point on 
the mode of Operation of these 'social situations,' for the 
matter has a direct bearing on the problem of the essential 
nature of war. It is necessary to recur to a topic mentioned 
earlier, that of the 'repressed' unconscious impulses that 
are incompatible with civilised Standards of thQught and 
behaviour. The normal fate of these impulses is not annihila- 
tion, as might be supposed from the fact of their total 
disappearance from view in the course of education and 
development. On the contrary, they remain active through- 
out life, and furnish probably the greater part of all our 
interest, energies, and strivings. They cannot manifest 
themselves, however, unless they first go through a process 
of transformation, to which the name c Sublimation ' has 
been attached, whereby the energy investing them becomes 
diverted along othef, associated Channels that accord 
better with the demands of social Standards. The deflection 
of an ungratified maternal instinct into philanthropic Channels 
is a familiär instance of this. Mental disorder, including 
the various forms of i nervousness, ' results from an inability 
of this process to work smoothly, and the very great preval- 
ence of this in one shape or another, from slight eccentricities 
and character anomalies to the gravest kinds of insanity, 
affords some measure of how imperfect is the sublimating' 
mechanism. Further, there is present in the mind a con- 
stant tendency to relapse in the direction of cruder and 
more primitive manifestations of the repressed impulses, 
and advantage is taken of every excuse to do so : examples 
are the relaxation of Standards of modesty in clothing at 
the seaside and on the stage, the conduct responsible for 
the recent agitation about 'war babies', and the temporary 
paralysis of ethical restraints by alcohol. Now the influence 
of social situations is very apt to be in just this direction 
of undoing the effects of Sublimation, thus leading to the 



adoption of a lower or more primitive Standard of behav- 
iour. 1 A mild example of this may be seen in the circum- 
stance that most committees will display types of behaviour, 
involving perhaps injustice, meanness, inconsiderateness, and 
lack of responsibility, of a kind that would be disavowed 
by any Single member acting independently. The bloodthirsty 
and often indiscriminate cruelty of mobs is notorious, and 
in general it may be said that any large body of men 
can be got to commit acts that would be impossible to 
the component individuals. But it is important to realise 
that this massive social contact creates none of these 
impulses; it only releases them, by affording a certain 
sanction to them. The impulses themselves are deeply 
rooted in human nature, and lead to endless other manife- 
stations besides those just indicated. These fall into three 
main groups: (i) social, those of social value, produced by 
Sublimation; (2) asocial, those of no social value, neurotic 
and other mental disturbances, due to a partial failure of the 
sublimating process, i.e., to mental conflict; (3) anti-social, 
due to paralysis of Sublimation, whether this be brought about 
by massive social contact or in any other of the numerous 
ways in which this is possible. The manifestations of social 
situations so largely studied by social psychologists must, 
therefore, in no sense be regarded as isolated phenomena. 
It is from this point of view that we obtain what is 
perhaps the most profitable perspective of the nature of 
War. The essence of war surely consists in an abrogation 
of Standards of conduct approved of by the ethical sense 

1 The reason why the influence of social situations is most often 
in the direction of lowering the Standards of thought and behaviomr 
can only be briefly indicated here. It is because sublimations are mainly 
individual creations, whereas the unconscious repressed impulses are 
more uniformly and generally distributed; a relapse therefore takes 
place in the direction of the greatest common measure of the whole, 
i. e. in the direction of these impulses. 


of civilised communities. By this is meant that in War an 
attempt is made to achieve a given purpose by means 
which are otherwise regarded as reprehensible. The best 
proof of this Statement is to be found in the simple fact 
that no nation or government dares to assume the responsi- 
bility for initiating any war. At the present time, for 
instance, they are one and all engaged in an eager search 
for sanctions to justify their action in proceeding to war, 
and a cynical observer might almost say that the chief 
conflict in the war is over the question of who began it. 
On every side it is agreed that to have caused the war 
is a disgrace, the blame for which must at all costs be 
imputed to the enemy. To admit responsibility for it is 
universally regarded as tantamount to a confession of guilty 
wrong-doing, the thought of which is too painful to tolerate. 
Every nation whole-heartedly maintains the view that it 
was forced to go to war, regretfully and entirely against 
its will, by the wicked machinations of some other nation. 
Now this is just the attitude which in private life we see 
adopted towards any anti-social act or any act of which 
the ethical sense of the Community does not approve. The 
person concerned makes every endeavour to shift his guilt 
or responsibility on to others or on to circumstances, and 
seeks to defend his conduct under cover of all imaginable 
excuses, pretexts, and rationalisations. This need for 
defence is in itself a proof that the act runs counter to 
the prevailing ethical sense. Seen from this angle, peace 
may be compared with the institution of monogamy, which 
society accepts in theory, but never in practice. 

It is piain that the actual deeds of which War consists 
are so counter to the conscience of mankind that they 
can never be deliberately performed without some preli- 
minary vindication; otherwise it would be mere murder 
and destruction of the savagest kind. The general theory 


of War is, of course, that the deeds comprising it are in 
themselves wholly repellent and abhorrent, but that they 
are justified by the necessity or desirability of the purpose 
to be achieved. As was indicated above, however, an 
alternative and equally possible view is that the repressed 
impulses leading to vvarlike acts accumulate such force 
from time to time as to incline the scales in favour of a 
bellicose Solution whenever the opportunity offers itself in 
the form of problems otherwise difficult of settlement. 
Nietzsche, in ( Thus Spake Zarathustra', contrasts the two 
attitudes thus: 'Ye say it is the good cause which hallow- 
eth even war? I say unto you: it is the good war which 
halloweth every cause.' The fact that the second view 
appears repugnant and almost unthinkable is in itself no 
evidence against its possible truth, for ex hypothesi it 
relates to the unconscious and repressed part of the mind, 
the part that is repudiated by our waking consciousness, 
but which none the less exerts the greatest influence on the 
latter. It is not without significance that every belligerent 
tends to impute to his enemy this motive for War; the 
Germans have a proverb Der Hass sieht scharf } which 
means that hate enables one to uncover the motives ot 
an enemy to which the latter is blind. 

Even if we accept the more flattering view of War, 
to the effect that 'the end justifies the means,' it is 
necessary to remember that historically the attitude of 
mind implied in this has frequently been allowed to serve 
as a cover for acts in which the means supplied the 
principal motive — a familiär instance being the passion for 
cruelty indulged in under the cloak of the Inquisition. It 
is an empirical rule of wide validity in psychology that 
the consequences of an act, so far as they could have 
been predicted, have to be taken into account as a prob- 
able motive, and usually the chief one, in performing the 


act, even when the author of it repudiates this conclusion. 
Applying this rule to the present question, we are led to ask 
whether the terrible events of War, the cruelties and so 
forth, are not connected with the underlying causes of War 
itself. Therefore, for more reasons than one, it remains a 
problem for psychological investigation whether the end or 
the means of War must be regarded as the ultimate cause 
of it. There is reason to suppose that both are operative, 
and also that the second set of factors is seriously under- 
estimated, büt it would be valuable to know which of the two 
is the more important. It will thus be necessary to institute 
studies into two broad groups of motives, on the one 
hand those alleged by the conscience and on the other the 
darker ones to be discovered only by a more indirect 
mode of approach. A few words may be added concerning 
each of these groups, so as to indicate some of the directions 
in which further research would seem to be desirable. 

Most of the motives belonging to the first group can 
be summed up under the word Patriotism, for it is much 
to be doubted whether the Operations of cosmopolitan 
financiers have ever directly dictated the outbreak of any 
war and they have rarely been a factor of any importance 
at all. Patriotism, or devotion, love and loyalty towards 
one's country (or smaller unit), involves the willingness to 
fight for its interests, this taking the various forms of 
defending its material interests, avenging a slight on its 
honour, extending its prestige and importance, or resisting 
encroachments. The ultimate psychological origin of this 
complex sentiment is to be found mainly in the individuars 
relation to his parents, as Bacon hinted in his remark that 
'Loye of his country begins in a man's own house.' 1 It 
has three sources — in feelings about the seif, the mother, 

1 De Aug. Scient, Bk. VI, Ch. iii. 


and the father respectively. The last-mentioned is probably 
the least important of the three, but is more prominent 
in some cases than in others, leading then to patriarchal 
conceptions in which the head of the State is feit to be 
the father, and the state itself the father's land. More 
significant is the relation towards the mother, as is indicated 
by the fact that a country is as a rule conceived to have 
the feminine gender (in the expression la patrie we see 
a fusion of both conceptions). Most important of all is the 
source in self-love and self-interest, where the seif becomes 
more or less identified with one's fellow Citizens and the 
state is a magnified seif. Psycho-analysis has shewn that 
these three feelings are far more complex and deeply 
rooted than is generally supposed, and that they exert a 
correspondingly weighty influence in the most mantfold 
relations of life, often in quite unsuspected ways. On the 
precise fate of these feelings during the stage of early 
mental deveiopment depends the greater part of a man's 
character, dispositions, including the form of his Patriotism, 
whether aggressive, assertive, vainglorious, or the contrary; 
it would be tempting to compare the type of Patriotism 
usual in different countries with the various types of 
family relatiqnship characteristic of each, for instance in 
Germany, England, and America. Even the finer shades 
of conduct in diplomatic relations, and the decisions on 
intricate questions, are to a large extent determined by 
the precise manner in which the three feeling-complexes 
just mentioned have been developed and inter-connected; 
it should not be forgotten that the greater part of them 
is unconscious, an example being the concealed hostility 
towards the father and passion for the mother that makes 
up what has been called the Oedipus complex. 

The second group of motives concerns a darker side 
of human nature. It is necessary to penetrate behind a 


veil which is well adapted to obscure it. This is the veil 
of restraint and discipline, the inculcation of obedience, 
byalty, and devotion to the military unit and its Commander, 
attitudes of mind which are akin to the first group of 
motives just discussed; they can hardly be regarded as 
important causes of War, for the emotions concerned are 
just as easily indulged in times of peace. Behind the fagade, 
however, are to be discerned evidences of far less respect- 
able motives. War is, of course, the replacement of peace- 
ful methods of dealing with certain other people, through 
discussion, consideration, and so on, by the method of 
brüte force, and that this reversion to a more primitive 
level of civiJisation is of its very essence is shewn by the 
nature of the deeds that throughout compose it. Civilised 
warfare is a contradiction in terms, for under no circum- 
stances is it a civilised act to blow another person's head 
off or to jab a bayonet into himj nor can we after recent 
events be any longer subject to the illusion that it is 
possible to exclude savagery from the warfare of civilised 
nations. Four repressed instincts play a cardinal part in 
all war: the passions for cruelty, destruction, lust, and 
loot. It is popularly held that the manifestations of these 
are incidental to War, and not inherent in it; that they 
are regrettable, though perhaps unavoidable, complications 
which should be reduced to a minimum. But it is found 
in practice that where one of these passions is suppressed 
another flames out the more to take its place; one army 
may rape where the other loots. The most puritanical 
army of which we have record, CromwelTs Ironsides, 
indulged in orgies of sacrilege, pillage, and massacre — under, 
of course, the usual cover of military necessity, etc. One 
of these passions, the lust to kill, is so indispensable that 
without it an army would be paralyzed. The füll analysis 
of these various passions, the sadistic blood-lust, the 


impulse to pillage and destroy, and so on, is of obvious 
importance for a proper understanding of their significance 
in regard to both the causation and conduct of War. 

Where, therefore, the romantic idealist sees only the 
pure flame of patriotism feeding noble impulses to heroism 
and self-sacrifice, the psychologist detects the Operation 
also of deeper forces dating from a past that is only too 
imperfectly overcome. Behind the guise of altruism work 
impulses of a more egoistic order, and who shall say which 
of the two is the more important, the visible or the 
invisible? What can definitely be asserted is that there is 
no hope of attaining to a real understanding of the meaning 
of War unless both are taken into füll account and appraised 
at their true value. Whoever undertakes a psycho-analysis 
of men deciding to enlist in war time will be astonished 
at the complexity and strength of the unavowed motives 
darkly impelling him and reinforcing his altruism, from the 
fascinating attraction of horrors to the homosexual desire 
to be in close relation with masses of men, and one can 
only urge scepticism and caution in accepting conclusions 
on these and allied matters until our knowledge of every 
layer of the human mind is more complete than it is at 

It may also be not out of place to sound a warning 
for those who accept the view that War is a reversion to 
a more savage State of conduct, but who draw the 
inference that the way to avoid it is through a still greater 
repression of the more primitive instincts that we inherit 
from the past. Doubt is cast on the validity of this 
apparently plausible conclusion by the following consider- 
ations. The investigations of psycho-analysis 1 have shewn 
that the influence on conscious life of these impulses that 

1 Those wishing to inform themselves further on this subject may 
be referred to the writer's 'Papers on Psycho-Analysis ', 2nd Ed., 19? 8. 


are in a repressed State in the unconscious mind is of an 
altogether unsuspected importance, and, what is more, that 
they are indestructible. Through the process of Sublimation, 
however, they become of the highest value in furnishing 
much of the energy for our social activities, so that the 
only hope of diminishing their anti-social effects is to 
further this process. Now Sublimation takes place auto- 
matically when repression is carried up to a certain point, 
the repressed impulses finding another outlet. In this there 
is necessarily an element of renunciation (of the original 
aim of the impulsc), a circumstance vvhich imposes an 
inevitable limit on what is possible in this direction. There 
are not vvanting indications suggesting that we are nearly 
reaching the limit of natural Sublimation, and when this 
happens there comes about a very unsatisfactory state of 
affairs. For if repression is carried too far, the energies 
in question revert to their unconscious sources, and lead 
either to neurotic disorders or to an accumulated tension 
which may be followed by an outbreaking of the impulses 
in more or less their original form. A lessening of the 
repression in such a case will allow better Sublimation to 
take place than before. 

If the present Situation of civilisation is accurately 
described in these terms, it follows that there are only 
two possible ways of dealing further with these unruly 
impulses, and it is likely that both will be adopted when 
such matters are better understood. One is to relax the 
repression at points where it has lost its value and become 
harmful; certain aspects of the sex problem (more intelligent 
Organisation of the marriage institution) occur to one in 
this connection. This is like the plan which we, alone 
among the nations, have adopted in the governing of subject 
races, and still more so in our relations with the Colonies. 
What the opposite attitude leads to is well shewn historically 


by the French Revolution and the American War of 
Independence. This principle has also been adopted socially 
in many spheres, notably in that of penology, and always 
ultimately with beneficial results. The other plan, which 
is not only compatible with, but also related to the first, 
consists in preventing excessive repression by allowing 
children to be more aware of certain sides of their nature, 
and so substituting conscious control for blind repression, 
A corollary of this is the provision of suitable outlets for 
the impulses in question; the value of various sports in 
this connection is undoubtedly great. One of the appeals 
made by War is that it offers a permissible outlet for a 
variety of impulses that are insufficiently gratified in times 
of peace ; this is often described as the spirit of adventure 
seeking to escape from humdrum conventionality. The 
credit of first clearly perceiving that War could never be 
abolished unless suitable outlets were provided for the 
impulses leading to it belongs to William James. In his 
famous essay on 'The Moral Equivalents of War' he 
suggested that such impulses should be deliberately guided 
into suitable paths, an example he gave being Alpine 
climbing to gratify the desire for danger. What was 
completely lacking in his day, however, was any know- 
ledge of the Springs of conduct and of the unconscious 
sources of warlike irtipulses. Thanks to Freud's penetrating 
researches, we are now at least in a position to under- 
take further investigations in this direction that hold out 
every promise of success. 

The argument of this paper may now be recapitulated. 
It is the place of Psychology to point out the almost 
irresistible tendency of the mind to believe that a given 
aim is possible of achievement when there is present a 
burningly intense desire to achieve it. Under these circum- 
stances the mind tends greatly to underestimate the 


difficulties in the way, and also the cost involved. Psychology 
has further to ascertain what this judgement of values 
depends on and ultimately signifies. When all the data 
involved are put before those who have to pass such 
judgements it is quite possible that reflection may lead to 
reconsideration of the criteria on which there had been a 
tendency to make a hurried decision. 

Although these considerations are evident enough 
psychological knowledge has realised that it is'far harder 
to apply them than is commonly imagined, and proffers 
the explanation of this: namely, that the main influences 
distorting judgement are unconscious ones, the persons 
concerned being therefore unaware of their effect. This 
matter has a direct bearing on judgements relating to the 
causation and preventibility of war. It is at present quite 
an open question whether it is possible for mankind to 
abstain from war, whether the desire to abstain at all costs 
does not fundamentally signify something more deleterious 
to human development than the contrary attitude, and 
whether the psychological benefits that, regularly recurring 
warfare brings to a nation are not greater than the total 
amount of härm done, terrific as this may be. 

Some clues were then indicated for the direction 
in which psychological research may profitably be further 
developed with a view to determining the ultimate meaning 
of War in gener al. This has to reach beyond the ostensible 
motives given by the belligerent, and to enquire also into 
the nature and origin of the various warlike impulses the 
presence of which is indispensable for a bellicose Solution 
of a problem ever to be regarded as tolerable. It is even 
possible that the strength of these impulses, for the most 
part concealed from view, is greater than that of the 
conscious motives; in any case they are certainly of 
importance in rendering the latter more acceptable and 


plausible. Something has been said also about the source 
of the warlike impulses, and about the possibility of finding 
other than warlike outlets for their activity. 

It is only when we have a fuller understanding of the 
motives and impulses concerned in War based on a detailed 
and exact knowledge of Individual Psychology that we 
can begin to form a just appreciation of the merits and 
demerits of War and of its general biological and social 
significance. War furnishes perhaps the most potent Stimulus 
to human activity in all its aspects, good and bad, that 
has yet been discovered. It is a miniature of life in general 
at its sharpest pitch of intensity. It reveals all the latent 
potentialities of man, and carries humanity to the utter^ 
most confines of the attainable, to the loftiest heights as 
well as to the lowest depths. It brings man a little closer 
to the realities of existence, destroying shams and remould- 
ing values. It forces him to discover what are the things 
that really matter in the end, what are the things for 
which he is willing to risk life itself. It can make life as 
a whole greater, richer, fuller, stronger, and sometimes 
nobler. It braces a nation, as an individual, to put forth 
its utmost effort, to the stränge experience of bringing into 
action the whole energy of which it is capable. 

The results of this tremendous effort are what might 
have been expected. On the one side are feats of daunt- 
less courage, of fearless heroism, of noble devotion and 
self-sacrifice, of incredible endurance, of instantaneous and 
penetrating apprehension, and of astounding intellectual 
achievement; feats which teach a man that he is greater 
than he knew. The other side need not be described in 
these days of horror. To appraise at their just value these 
two sides of war, to sound the depths as well as explore the 
heights, what is this other than to know the human mind? 



It is proposed to discuss in this paper the relationship 
of the uncivilised impulses of man to the civilised ones, 
with special reference to the problems in this connection 
suggested by the spectacle of war. The term ' Sublimation * 
in the title does not, therefore, cover the whole ground 
of the paper, for, although the process denoted by this 
is perhaps the most characteristic of those whereby the 
one set of impulses becomes subordinated to the other, 
it is by no means the only process of the kind. 

In the conduct of war, and implicit in the very conception 
of war, sundry impulses come to expression of a kind that 
are apparently non-existent, or at all events latent, in the 
same people during peace, and with which we are hardly 
familiär outside the criminal classes; they may include 
such disapproved-of tendencies as cruelty, deceit, and 
ruthless egotism, with such acts as killing, looting, and 
savagery of various kinds. This statement, it is true, does 
not accord with the populär and romantic view of war, 
which holds that it is valid only of the enemy, and that 
the conduct of the soldiers on its own side differs from 
that in peace in merely one particular, namely, in the fact 

1 Read before the British Association for the Advancement of 
Science; Section of Physiology, September 10, 191 5. Published in the 
Reports of the Association, Vol. 85, p. 699. 



that they kill their opponents. That it should have to 
differ even in this particular is regarded as an unfortunate 
necessity, and in no way related to any innate desire to 
kill. But it does not need very much knowledge of the 
unvarnished facts to realise the outstanding truth that in 
war things are done by large numbers of men on both 
sides of a kind that is totally foreign to their accustomed 
Standard of ethical conduct during peace, and the question 
arises what is the source of the impulses thus vented and 
the relationship of these impulses to the Controlling forces 
of civilised life? 

An important clue to the problem is afforded by the 
circumstance that similar impulses are readily to be detected 
in the conduct and mental attitude of most children in 
the first few years of life, although their significance here 
has for certain reasons been greatly underestimated. It 
should be evident that if an adult were to display the 
same disregard for the rights and feelings of others, the 
same indecency, cruelty, and egotism as that characteristic 
of the infant he would very definitely rank as an asocial 
animal, and it is partly this remarkable contrast between 
the two, separating them into two worlds, that accounts 
for the extent to which the continuity of individual life 
from the infant to the adult is generally overlooked. There 
can be no doubt that the asocial impulses we are dis- 
cussing are part of the inherited characteristics of mank- 
ind, and it is throughout intelligible that both the infant 
and the savage stand in this respect nearer to the 
animals from which we are descended. In the course of 
individual development these impulses are replaced by 
tendencies of an opposite nature, such as consideration 
for others, honesty, altruism, and horror of cruelty. It is 
generally believed that they disappear owing to the implanta- 
tion or development of the more civilised tendencies, 


but psycho-analytic investigations shew that the process is 
more subtle and complex than is indicated in such a 
Statement. There is an intricate inter-relationship between 
the two sets of tendencies, the precise details of which 
should form an important subject of study. A foundation 
for such study is the conclusion arrived at by all psycho- 
analysts, and perhaps one of the most startling of their 
conclusions, that the primitive, asocial tendencies never 
really disappear at all, but continue their existence through- 
out life in the buried, unconscious region of the mind. 
This part of the mind, indeed, essentially consists of the 
mpulses that we are considering, that is, of all the wishes, 
longings, and instinctive tendencies that are incompatible 
in their nature with the ethical and civilised Standards 
prevailing in consciousness, and which, consequently, have 
been split off from consciousness, prevented from entering 
it, and 'repressed' into the unconscious. From here the 
asocial impulses exert a far more considerable influence on 
conscious activity than might be imagined, and they may even 
be called the ultimate source of such activity. It is with 
the interaction between the unconscious and consciousness 
that the science of psycho-analysis is primarily concerned. 
A description of the normal unconscious mind would 
astonish and assuredly shock its owner. It is absolutely 
non-moral in nature, or, as judged by conscious Standards, 
immoral. Through it course all manner of unrestrained 
fancies and desires, characterised by a complete disregard 
for the ethical and aesthetic canons of social life. A wish 
for the death of another person, even that of a loved 
relative, may arise on the slightest provocation, the crudest 
forms of indecency are gratified in the imagination, and 
the most extravagant flights of self-glorification are indulged 
in to the heart's content. In short, the picture may bear no 
resemblance to the person's conscious character. 


The interest that a knowledge of the unconscious has 
for the psychological understanding of the phenomenon of 
war is twofold. In the first place, as I have suggested 
elsewhere, 1 it is probable that the constant pressure of 
these savage, unconscious impulses plays a part, the extent 
of which is quite unknown, but which may be very great 
indeed, in raising the threshold of acceptability for pacific 
Solutions of international difficulties, and thus operates, 
probably in periodic waves, in favouring a bellicose one. 
In the second place, we find in war an instructive example 
of the type of influence which has the power of releasing 
repressed impulses, and thus allowing external manifestation 
of them in a fairly direct form; it is with this latter 
question that the present paper is chiefly concerned. 

In order to understand what happens in the release 
of a repressed impulse we have next to consider the fate 
of such an impulse under various circumstances. This fate 
is manifold, but there are two broad groups of processes 
that may come about, the distinction between which I wish 
to emphasise at the outset. The repressing forces may on 
the one hand profoundly affect the impulse itself, or, to 
be more accurate, its mode of functioning; or on the 
other hand it may merely hold the impulse in check. The 
external result is very similar in both cases, the conduct 
of the person falling into line with what is demanded by 
social Convention, but the psychological difference between 
the two is profound, though its füll social significance is 
only evident under the stress of influences, such as war, 
which inhibit the action of the repressing forces. 

The repressed impulses, as of course all impulses, 
are of a dynamic character, and they exert a constant 
activity in the direction of external expression, which is 

1 See Chapter IX. 


called in psycho-analysis the 'wish-fulfilment\ In this, 
however, they meet with the Opposition of certain forces 
of a contrary kind, vvhich emanate partly from without, 
and partly from within. The main source of them is the 
pressure of education in the widest sense, exerted first 
by the parents and later on by the whole cultural 
environment as well, though no doubt the child is born 
with a susceptibility to this influence in the form of various 
predispositions. A simple illustration of the effect of 
repression is the case where the impulse is, as it were, 
weakened and made milder on its path towards expression, 
the resulting manifestatton agreeing in kind, but not in 
intensity, with the original impulse. In this way, for instance, 
a definitely sexual attraction may reveai itself consciously 
as merely a slight Üking, manifesting itself externally in 
the form of polite attentions, and a murderous desire may 
come to expression merely as a chuckle whenever the 
object of the feeling meets with a slight reverse of for- 
tune, or as a cordial Opposition to whatever views he may 
hold. In such cases as these the repressing force presents 
itself in the form of an obstacle, a filter through which 
the affect accompanying the repressed impulse can only 

It will readily be seen that the social consequences 
of a process such as that just indicated may be entirely 
satisfactory, the energy investing the repressed impulse 
being neither lost nor dammed up, but being applied in 
a quite permissible and even advantageous social direction. 
But only too often the process does not go on so smoothly 
as this. The repressed affects may, for instance, become 
heaped up in the form of an unconscious complex, from 
which they can then be discharged in an excessive manner 
on to an associated conscious idea, leading to a violent 
distortion of judgement, a common example of which is 



a strong political bias unconsciously dictated by self-interest. 
More serious consequences still will be noted presently. 

We have next to speak of the transformations that 
may be brought about in the actual impulses themselves. 
Perhaps the most typical of these, and the most extensively 
studied, is that known as 4 Sublimation'. This has been 
defined by Freud 1 as 'the capacity to exchange an originally 
sexual aim for another one which is no longer sexual, 
though it is psychically related to the first.' By it is 
meant not a vague displacement of normal sexual desire 
by another, unrelated interest, but an unconscious and 
automatic deflection of energy from the individual biological 
components of the sexual instinct on to other fields which 
are symbolically associated with the first. It is a process 
that concerns the life of the young child far more than 
that of the adult, and it must clearly be recognised that 
it refers much more to the peculiar and less differentiated 
form of sexuality known as infantile sexuality than to the 
familiär adult type. 2 It will be remembered that, for reasons 
that cannot be gone into here, Freud includes under the 
term 'sexual* many processes, especially in childhood life, 
to which it is not usually applied. Be that as it may, the 
fact that energy and interest can be in this way deflected 
from the sexual sphere is well recognised by psychologists 
and educationalists, although its importance and the extent 
to which the process normally goes on without being 
remarked are certainly as a rule underestimated. 

The primary impulses that have to be modified before 
attaining adjustment to the Standards of social life may 
for practical purposes be divided into two groups, according 

1 Sammlung kleiner Schriften zur Neurosenlehre, Zweite Folge, 
S. 181. 

2 This subject is developed in a chapter of my Tapers on 
Psycho-Analysis', 1918, Ch. XXXV. 


as they serve the interests of the individual or those of 
the species. The latter, the sexual impulses, are trans- 
formed by Sublimation in the manner just indicated. The 
other set, which may be called the impulses belonging to 
the ego, are equally in need of modification for social 
purposes, for in their original shape they are quite ego- 
centrically orientated and tend to function in ways that 
ruthlessly ignore the rights and feelings of other people. 
A characteristic process whereby these egoistic impulses 
become modified is through their becoming invested with 
erotic feeling, the word erotic being here used to denote 
all possible varieties of love. They are in this way sub- 
ordinated to the mutual interests of the individual and 
his environment, and direct pleasure is experienced in their 
functioning along lines that are acceptable to civilised 
social Standards. 

In both these cases we may speak of a refinement 
of the primary impulses, the very nature of which is pro- 
foundly affected. A curious circumstance, however, one 
that cannot be illustrated by any analogy from the physical 
world, is that the impulses continue to exist side by side 
in both their original and in their altered form. A possible 
explanation for this may be reached from consideration 
of the varying depth in the unconscious to which the 
educative influence penetrates, for it is certain that it never 
affects the repressed impulses down to their ultimate 
source in the inherited instincts. Evidence for the truth 
of this Statement may be obtained from the analysis of 
dreams, in which the repressed impulses are to be dis- 
covered in their original form, and sometimes with very 
little disguise. The practical external result, none the less, 
is that the individual's conduct is in complete accord with 
the ethical, aesthetic and social Standards of civilised life, 
and that it is so without any sense of compulsion, but as 



a spontaneous and natural expression of the personality. 
One may say that adoption of these Standards has become 
second nature, so thoroughly are they incorporated into 
the personality. A further important matter is that this 
State of affairs is a durable one, and will stand a consider- 
able amount of strain. The individual is in no sense 
dependent of external approval, but will act well whatever 
the circumstances, even when to do so is to his manifest 
disadvantage; it is not in his power to do otherwise. 

The refinement just described is of course the ideal 
more or less consciously aimed at by civilising agents, 
though it is not often fully achieved. In contrast to it 
stand other effects of repression, which, though they may 
equally result in 'good' behaviour, do so merely through 
exercising an external pressure, there being no change 
whatever in the nature of the impulses themselves. It is 
as though the individual consented to behave well, against 
his nature, because the consequences would otherwise be 
disagreeable in the form of social disapproval, dislike, or 
actual punishment. Like Nietzsche's 'culture-Philistines', 
they obey and follow an ideal that is not really their 
own, and it is therefore intelligible that their allegiance 
to it can never be absolutely depended on. They are 
usually under a certain strain, and are always subjected 
to more or less inner mental conflict, though the greater 
part of this may be unconscious. Superficially it may not 
be easy to distinguish the two types just described — and 
of course the line between them is in no sense an absolute 
one — but the difference becomes pronounced when the 
stress of external social pressure is removed. In these 
circumstances the conduct and Standards of the type first 
described remain relatively unchanged, while those of the 
second type rapidly deteriorate. A trite illustration of what 
is meant may be seen in connection with table manners 


and other personal habits; with some people these remain 
quite the same whether they are alone or in Company, 
but with the majority of people this is certainly not so. 
The same is true of much more important matters, 
including the cardinal laws of morality. When an individual 
no longer feels himself to be under the eye of the social 
censor he becomes more true to himself, aud the result 
of this will depend on whether his primitive instincts have 
undergone a real refinement by civilisation — in the way 
indicated above — or only an apparent one. There are 
many circumstances under which this may happen. The 
sensitiveness to the social censor may be paralysed by 
physical agents, for example alcohol or the toxins of bodily 
disease (e. g. syphilis of the brain), or they may be tempor- 
arily inhibited by the action of powerful emotions, such as 
anger. More serious socially is the Situation when the 
change is not in the individual, but in the conscience of 
the social body itself. This is the secret of the so-called 
( danger of mob violence', when passions are no longer 
restrained because the surrounding social attitude has ceased 
to be inimical to their functioning. To the same category 
belong many of the phenomena of war, indeed the most 
essential ones. The lust for murder, for instance, which 
slumbers in every man's heart, runs counter to the strongest 
possible disapproval and penalties on the part of the State 
and of society in general, but in war time society not 
merely averts its gaze, but deliberately incites this lust 
and affords it füll opportunity for gratification. 

Psycho-analytical experience fully accords with the 
evidence at present being yielded by the War in the con- 
clusion that the refinement of our primitive instincts has 
proceeded to a far less extent than we flatter ourselves, 
and that the large majority of people belong to the second 
type described above, where this refinement is more 


apparent than real. 1 And there is still more to be said in 
the same direction. Society, after making the discovery 
that a level of conduct which is natural to the few can 
be compelled from the many, has been encouraged to 
raise her Standards still higher, to an extent that an 
increasingly large number of people find it difficult to 
comply with. The forced efforts to do so result in a variety 
of artificial reactions, character peculiarities, over-compen- 
sations, neurotic Symptoms, and so on, all of which are 
necessarily unstable in nature. As Freud puts it, such 
people may be said, in a psychological sense, to be living 
beyond their means. When the real test comes, i. e. when 
they are left to their own resources without the supporting 
pressure of a civilised environment, their false acquisitions 
fall away from them just as a parvenu loses his veneer 
of good manners in similar circumstances, and they revert 
to a lower level of conduct. An inexplicable change seems 
to have come over them, but this change is only in their 
external behaviour; their real nature remains what it always 
was. All that has been lost is a false ideal, an illusion. 
In this paper I have done nothing but sketch the out- 
lines of a problem which I believe to be of great 
importance for psychology, and for social psychology in 
particular. Further investigation is needed to determine in 
what precise details the two types differ, and how these 
differences come about, why it has proved. possible for 
one man to incorporate a given civilised Standard into his 
inmost nature — to identify himself with it, as would be said 
psycho-analytically — and not for another. 

1 See a recent paper to the same effect by Freud: ' Zeitgemäßes 
über Krieg und Tod', Itnago, 1915, Bd. IV, S. 1. 



The definition of national character traits is notoriously 
treacherous ground, but in all attempts to describe those 
most typical or general among English people one is always 
mentioned with such unvarying emphasis that it is hard 
to resist the conclusion that it must relate, however roughly, 
to some group of observable phenomena. I refer to the 
striking insistence of the English on propriety, which is 
commented on not only by practically all foreign observers, 
but also by Americans and our fellow-subjects from 
overseas, not to speak of the 'Keltic fange' in our own 
islands. That it degenerates into prudishness here more 
often than in any other country, at least in the Old World, 
will also, I think, be widely admitted. The trait is probably 
to be correlated in some degree with the proneness to 
reserve, the absence of social gifts, the dislike of betraying 
emotion of any kind, and the horror of self-display, 
vaunting, braggadocio, gasconade, rodomontade — one sees 
that we have to use foreign terms to indicate attitudes so 
foreign to us — which also belong to the judgements passed 
on the English by foreigners. Psychologically the group in 

1 Read before the British Psychological Society, March 14, 1920. 
Published in the International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 1920, Vol. I. 



question might perhaps be described in McDougairs language 
as a deficiency in the self-regarding instinct. Psycho- 
analysts would call attention to the secondary nature of 
the phenomena as indicating the existence of what is called 
a reaction-formation, and indeed that something is being 
actively controlled or avoided is fairly evident; they would 
probably ascribe the traits to a reaction against more than 
one complex, repressed exhibitionism being perhaps the 
most prominent. Hovvever this may be, it has occurred to 
me that there is possibly a connection between this group 
of character traits — which, for convenience, might be referred 
to as the propriety trait — and a peculiar historical feature 
in the development of the English language, but before 
submitting this idea for your consideration I shall have 
to make a few remarks on some general psychological 
aspects of speech. 

There are good grounds for believing that speech 
originally was a far more concrete activity than it now is, 
and is has indeed been maintained that all speech represents 
pretermitted action. 1 Piain indications of this are to be 
observed among less cultivated human beings, especially 
children and savages. Freud, 2 for instance, following Groos, 
points out that children treat words as objects in the 
various games they play with them, while Frazer, 3 in his 
section on Tabooed Words, brings forward a mass of 
evidence illustrating the extraordinary significance attached 
by primitive races to words and especially to names. He 
says, following Tylor: 'Unable to discriminate clearly 
between words and things, the savage commonly fancies 
that the link between a name and the person or thing 

1 Ferenczi: Contributions to Psycho-Analysis. 1916, p. 120. 

2 Freud: Der Witz und seine Beziehung zum Unbewußten. 1905, 
S. 105. 

8 Frazer: Taboo and the Perils of the Soul. 1911, Chapter VI. 


denominated by it is not a mere arbitrary and ideal 
associatiqn, but a real and substantial bond which unites 
the two in such a way that magic may be wrought on 
a man just as easily through his name as through his hair, 
his nails, or any other material part of his person. In fact, 
primitive man regards his name as a vital portion of 
himself and takes care of it accordingly.' He cites 1 the 
example of the Sulka of New Britain who when near their 
enemies speak of them as 4 rotten tree-trunks', 'and they 
imagine that by calling them that they make the limbs of 
their dreaded enemies ponderous and clumsy like logs. 
This example illustrates the extremely materialistic view 
which these savages take of the nature of words; they 
suppose that the mere utterance of an expression signifying 
clumsiness will homoeopathically affect with clumsiness the 
limbs of their distant foemen. Another illustration of this 
curious misconception is furnished by a Caffre superstition 
that the character of a young thief can be reformed by 
shouting his name over a boiling kettle of medicated 
water, then clapping a lid on the kettle and leaving the 
name to steep in the water for several days.' Of the 
innumerable examples from the field of taboo one may be 
quoted: 2 the Alfoors of Poso are not only not allowed to 
mention the names of their parents-in-law, a common 
enough prohibition, but if such a name happens to be the 
same as that of a thing — e. g. in English a Mr. Lake — 
then they may not mention even this thing by its own 
name, only by a borrowed one. Even with us the use of 
bad language by chiidren is treated as a sin of no mean 
order, and the law of England can still condemn a man to 
imprisonment for making use in public of certain forbidden 
(obscene) words, the utterance aloud of the heinous words 
being in both cases regarded as equivalent to a nefarious deed. 
1 ibid., op. cit, p. 331. 2 ibid., op. cit, p. 340. 


The nature of this primitive material conception of 
words and speech can be described more exactly. One 
of the conclusions emerging from Freud's work on the 
psychology of wit and of dreams is that all words originally 
possessed distinct motor and perceptual qualities, which 
they gradually lose more or less completely in the course 
of mental development. As has been interestingly expounded 
by Ferenczi, 1 there is a class of words, namely, obscene 
words, which, probably because of their being excluded 
from the usual course of development, still retain these 
qualities in a füll measure. On the perceptual side Ferenczi 2 
remarks that a word of this kind 4ias a peculiar power 
of compelling the hearer to imagine the object it denotes 
in substantial actuality', and adds 'one may therefore 
infer that these words as such possess the capacity ot 
compelling the hearer to revive memory pictures in a 
regressive and hallucinatory manner'; he calls attention 
to the fact that delicate allusions to the same ideas, and 
scientific or foreign designations for them, do not have this 
effect, or at least not to the same extent as the words 
taken from the original, populär, erotic vocabulary of one's 
mother-tongue. On the motor side the following three 
illustrations may be mentioned: the aggressive tendency 
which Freud has shewn to underlie the uttering of obscene 
jokes — this being a Substitute for a sexual aggression; 
the curious perversion of coprophemia in which the sexual 
act consists solely of uttering indecent words to women; 
and the obsessional neurosis, where the act itself of thinking 
is curiously sexualised in the preconscious in such a way that 
the impulsion to think certain thoughts comes as a Substitute 
for forbidden acts. In all these cases the act of thought or 
speech is psychologically the füll equivalent of an actual deed. 

1 Ferenczi : op. cit, Chap. IV. 

2 ibid., op. cit, p. 116. 


As was remarked above, in the course of mental 
development the motor and perceptual elements become 
mpre and more eliminated from words, and in purely 
abstract thought they disappear altogether. It may be 
recalled that Galton many years ago pointed out how 
much less capable of abstract thought are as a rule persons 
of a pronouncedly visual or auditory type as contrasted 
with those whose thought processes contain only feeble 
perceptual elements. One may also in this connection refer 
to Freud's latest conclusion on the unconscious, 1 namely, 
that the essential difference between unconscious and con- 
scious ideas is that the former consist only of ideas (vvhich 
easily regress to images) of the object or process, whereas 
the latter contain as well the idea of the corresponding 
word. Thus unconscious mentation and abstract thought 
stand at the two opposite ends of the scale in this respect, 
the ideas of the former being near to perceptual imagery, 
those of the latter being almost completely divested of it. 

It is evident that this process of gr adual abstraction 
effects a great economy of thought; indeed, without it none 
of the higher forms of thought could occur. It is probable 
that this economical factor is of prime importance in 
bringing about the process in question, but it has to be 
remarked that this is accompanied by other important 
psychical changes as well, which probably also stand in 
a causal relation to it. I refer to the inhibition in feeling 
that goes with the progress from the motor-perceptual 
stage to the abstract one, and the valuable saving in 
expenditure of emotional energy that this signifies. There 
is thus a double economy, an intellectual and an affective 
one. The affective economy, to which I wish to draw 
special attention, may be illustrated from two sides. On 

1 Freud: Sammlung kleiner Schriften zur Neurosenlehre, Vierte 
Folge. 191 8, S. 334. 


the one hand, when there is a need to express unusually 
strong feeling recourse is commonly had, through regression, 
to the use of just those words which have retained their 
motor and perceptual elements, as in oaths and obscene 
language, a procedura much more manifest in the male 
sex because of their having been to a less extent the 
subject of repression in this sex. The desire for expression 
combined with a sense of incapacity for it, so common 
in the young, similarly results in the phenomenon of slang. 
On the other hand, when there is a special need to inhibit 
feeling recourse is had to the use of abstract, or at all 
events less familiär words. It is well known that an other- 
wise forbidden idea can be readily expressed if only it is 
veiled in a euphemism or translated into a foreign tongue. 
Most books on sexology, for instance, contain whole 
passages written in Latin. The reason is that the vulgarj 
familiär words would tend to arouse embarrassing feelings, 
in both Speaker and hearer, w T hich can be avoided by the 
use of foreign, unfamiliar, or abstract words which have 
been acquired only in later years. 

After this long disgression I now return to the theme 
of English characterology. Without entering on a discussion 
of the numerous individual, social, or racial forces making 
for repression and inhibition, I can only think that such 
a process must be favoured if one of the main instruments 
by means of which it is carried out is peculiarly accessible. 
Thus, if it is unusually easy to give vocal expression to 
forbidden ideas in a way that inhibits the development oi 
feeling it seems to me to follow that in such circumstances 
feeling will be more readily and extensively inhibited. Now 
it is clear that this is just the Situation in which the 
English race has been placed for nearly a thousand years. 
The Saxon and Norman languages, after living side by 
side for about two centuries, gradually coalesced to form 


English, but to this day there is in most cases an obvious 
difference in the 4 feer of the words belonging to each, 
and still more between words of Saxon origin and Latin 
words more recently introduced than their Norman-French 
precursors. All literary men recognise the distinction clearly, 
and every text-book dealing with style in writing urges 
the student to choose the Saxon words wherever it is 
possible without being precious, as being more vivid, robust 
and virile, i. e. because of their greater capacity to arouse 
plastic images and feeling-tone. Our störe of synonyms is 
unequalled by that of any other European language, and 
the difference in the respects I häve mentioned between 
such pairs as house and domicile, fatherly and paternal, 
book and volume, is quite patent. The existence of this 
double Stratum of words enables us to indulge in fasti- 
diousness to a degree not open to any other nation. Most 
culinary terms are, for historical reasons, of Romance origin, 
and the difference between being invited to a dish of veal 
or pork and one of calves' flesh or swine flesh is very per- 
ceptible. No other nation is unable to use its native word 
for belly if need be, but we have to say 'abdomen', and 
that only with circumspection. In English a lady is gravid, 
pregnant, or enceinte, there being no Single native word 
to describe the phenomenon. The process in question can 
often be followed in its stages, such as when the Saxon 
word 'gut* gets replaced first by the Norman-French 
'bowel', and then, when this is found too coarse, by 
the Latin ( intestine\ 

The Suggestion I make, therefore, is that the develop- 
ment of the outstanding English character trait of 
propriety has been fostered by the peculiar nature of the 
English language, one resulting from the success of a 
Norman adventurer some thousand years ago. 



It must often have Struck dispassionate observers as a 
curious problem that Ireland should differ so profoundly 
from both Scotland and Wales in her reaction to the 
Stimuli provided by England. On the extent of the 
difference it is not necessary to dwell; the evidence of it 
is to-day before our eyes. It is the object of this paper 
to suggest along psych o-analytical lines that one important 
factor effecting this difference, the geographical relationship 
of the countries, operates in a more subtle and complex 
manner than might be suspected. In so doing it is clear that 
we are deliberately isolating one factor only and have no 
intention of underestimating the numerous other well- 
recognised ones, historical, dynastic, economic, and so on. 

Most people would, I think, agree that the psychological 
motives impelling Scotland and Wales to unite amicably 
with England are more evident, and call less for explana- 
tion, than those which have perpetuated strife between 
Ireland and England. The relations between Scotland and 
England, for instance, are typical of those subsisting be- 
tween two strong and well-matched men, who after a 
period of angry fighting agree to be reconciled and to 

1 Read before the British Psycho-Analytical Society, June 21, 1922. 



join in a partnership of mutual benefit. This issue was 
doubtless facilitated by the circumstance that the race 
and culture of both countries were predominantly Anglo- 
Saxon; indeed, with the exception of the Western High- 
lands, the differences between Scotland and Northern 
England are hardly greater than those between Northern 
and Southern England. The same reason cannot be evoked 
in the case of Wales and England, where both the racial 
and cultural differences are profound and yet the two 
nations have found it possible to live harmoniously together 
in the dosest contact for many centuries; nor can it be 
said that the dynastic union in Tudor times played more 
than a transitory part in producing this result. One might 
liken the relation of the two countries to each other as 
resembling that between two brothers of unequal size, 
with good-humoured tolerance on the one side and a 
combination of petulance and admiration on the other. 

Between England and Ireland, on the other hand, we 
have a continuous record of dragooning, despoiling and 
bullying on the one side and of dogged and contumacious 
resistance on the other, there being relatively little attempt 
at any period in the past seven centuries to agree to any 
form of tolerable union. The first question that arises is 
whether the State of affairs represents a perfectly natural 
reaction on the part of Ireland to an exceptional degree 
of tyranny from England or whether on the other # hand 
there was not some special feature in the Irish character 
that provoked friction and prevented the union that one 
has seen in various parts of Europe between different 
nations and races. 

Being concerned here only with the nature of the 
Irish reaction I intend to pass by any analysis that might 
be instituted into Englands attitude. That the latter cannot 
be held responsible for the whole Situation is clear from 


a comparison between Wales and Ireland. The position of 
Wales in respect to England has been for many centuries, 
from a purely military point of view, identical with that 
of Ireland, so that the greater resistance offered by Ireland 
against absorption into the United Kingdom could hardly 
have been due to any better possibility of success. It 
seems safe, therefore, to search for some explanation in 
the national differences between the two peoples. The task 
here at once becomes obscure, for there is no profound 
racial difference between the two. Both Irish and Welsh 
consist essentially of a Mediterranean stock, with a primitive 
Neolithic substratum, which in both cases completely 
accepted, presumably through conquest, the Keltic culture 
and language. We can hardly ascribe any far-reaching 
national importance to the greater admixture of Danish 
stock in some of the coastal regions of Ireland or to the 
more complete Romanization of the Britons. Yet within 
historical times we note three outstanding divergences in 
the behaviour of the two peoples: (i) Wales early estab- 
lished a harmonious relationship with England, which has 
always proved impossible with Ireland; (2) Ireland was 
uninfluenced by the Reformation, whereas Wales passed 
to the extreme of radical Protestantism ; (3) The Welsh 
have on the whole been a more peace-loving people than 
the Irish, both nationally and individually. 

Of the many factors accounting for this result the 
only one with which we are here concerned is the circum- 
stance that Ireland is an island. It has often been pointed 
out that the psychology of islanders tends to differ from 
that of related peoples on the mainland and we ourselves 
are no exception to that rule. The insularity of the British, 
with all that that word connotes, is proverbial on the 
Continent. It is probable, however, that the relative size 
of the island is of considerable importance in this con- 


nection and that the insularity of, for instance, Australia, 
Japan, and Great Britain is a very different thing from 
that of smaller islands, even though there may be features 
common to them all. The numerous ways in which the 
geographical fact of insularity may influence the mentality 
of the islanders, the sense of aloofness, peculiar forms 
assumed by the desire for security, and so on, would 
make an elaborate chapter, from which it is only possible 
here to select one special aspect. This aspect concerns 
the tendency of the geographical insularity to become 
unconsciously associated with particular complexes, affording 
in this way a certain mode of expression for these. 

The complexes to which the idea of an island home 
tends to become attached are those relating to the ideas 
of woman, virgin, mother and womb, all of which fuse in 
the central complex of the womb of a virgin mother. This 
means, of course, one's own birth-place. In the secret 
recesses of his heart every male being cherishes the thought 
that his mother is a virgin, this representing the repudiation 
of the father which psycho-analysis has shewn to be a 
normal constituent of the universal Oedipus-complex. That 
important consequences in life may follow, as will presently 
be indicated, from the association of one's actual home 
and country with the profound source of feeling just 
mentioned is not surprising. 

The evidence for the existence of this unconscious 
association is of two kinds. On the one hand there is the 
psycho-analysis of individual phantasies about wonderful 
islands, which are so common as to provide a constantly 
recurring theme for poets and novelists. In such investi- 
gations I have repeatedly obtained unequivocal evidence 
of the association in question. Secondly one finds scattered 
throughout literature and mythology innumerable references 
to a special mystical appeal that islands make to the 



imagination, and study of the precise form taken by this 
affords piain indication of the same conclusion. 

To begin with, that the idea of one's native land, 
whether an island or not, is generally associated with the 
idea of a female being having both virginal and maternal 
attributes is evident from the familiär fact that most 
countries are commonly represented in this allegorical form: 
one has only to think of Britannia, Columbia, Germania, 
Italia, and the rest. These personages, in spite of their 
matronly characteristics, never have any husband. The 
thesis here maintained, however, goes beyond this simple 
fact: it is that the association mentioned above is much 
more closely forged and much more strongly invested 
with feeling if the homeland is an island. It will, I think, 
be generally agreed that the conception of Britannia has 
much more significance to us than has that of Columbia 
for Citizens of the United States. 

Most of what is here quoted from the second group of 
evidence, taken from populär and literary sources, will have a 
direct reference to Ireland, but similar instances bearing on 
the theme will also be cited from other countries. In the 
first place it may be doubted if any other country has such 
a variety of feminine names. In addition to the customary 
one of Erin, which would content most countries, Ireland 
is also called by, amongst other names: Cäitlin Ni Houlihan, 
Morrin Ni Cullinan, Roisin Dubh (little black Rose), Shan 
Van Vocht (old woman), Seau Bheau Bhoct, Dark Rosaleen, 
and by the names of three queens of Tuatha Di Danann, 
Eire, Bauba, and Fodhla. References to Ireland as a 
woman, and especially as a mother, are innumerable in 
poems, speeches and writings; the following may serve 
as typical examples. 1 

1 For these I am indebted to Miss Violet Fitzzeraid. 


I am Ireland. 

I am older than the Old Woman of Beare. 

Great my glory, 

I that bore Cuchulainn the valiant. 

Great my shame 

My own children that sold their Mother. 1 

And Mother, though thou cast away 
The child who'd die for thee, 
My fondest wishes still should pray 
For cuisle geal mo croidhe. 2 

Thou hast slain me, O my bride, and may'st serve thee 

no whit, 

For the soul within me loveth thee not since yesterday, 

nor to-day. 

Thou hast left me weak and broken in mien and in shape 

Betray me not who love thee, my Little Dark Rose. 

Had I a yoke of horses I would plough against the hüls, 
In middle-Mass Vd make a gospel of my little Dark Rose. 
Fd give a kiss to the young girl that would give her 

youth to me 
And behind the kiss would lie embracing my Little Dark Rose. 

The Erne shall rise in rüde torrents and hüls shall be rent, 
The sea shall roll in red waves and blood be poured out, 
Every mountain glen in Ireland and the bogs shall quake 
Some day ere shall perish my Little Dark Rose. 3 

1 P. Pearse : I am Ireland. 

2 Michael Doheny : A cuisle geal mo croidhe. Doheny escaped to 
America in 1848 after taking part in the O'Brien rising. 

3 Traditionally ascribed to Hugh O'Donnell, 1602; translated by 
Patrick Pearse f 


Fallen her own winsome beauty 
From her lovely shapely face, 
Füll breasted nurse of fair hosts, 
No heir is left to her. 

She hath no friend, no mate, 

No lover in her bed, — 

A woman with no strong man's protection! 

No man lieth beside her 

Of the true blood of her heart's affection. 

She hath no hope of any husband 

For the true Gaelic blood 

Over the stormy white-bayed sea is gone. 

For this her mind is heavy. 

The gentle widow shall not find 

A lover or a friendly mate 

Until the true Gaels come again — 

With freemen's shouts inspiring dread, 

No wonder that the isle ot strengths, 
Once beloved, should now repine 
For the Gaelic race of noble deeds, 
Who once cherished her füll well. 

The nurse of the fosterling though she be 
Widowed ot every husband 
O Mary, how pitiful her fate, 
Bereft of all her ancestral beauty! 

Without protection against the island's evil 
Alas, the deformity of her condition 
Those who possessed her thus, — 
The ancient mother of the sons of Mileadh. 


A harlot without respect or honour 
Is this land of Partholon's stronghold. 
Her reason hath withered without reward, 
And her seed is subject to savages! 1 

4 Yet I do not give up the country. I see her in a 
swoon, but she is not dead: though in her tomb she lies 
helpless and motionless, still there is on her Ups a spirit 
of life, and on her cheek a glow of beauty.' 2 4 Nurse of 
our bringing up is she, and when you have looked at her 
she is not unlovely.' 3 But perhaps the most moving des- 
cription of all is to be found in W. B. Yeats' play 
' Cathleen ni Houlihan', where the spirit of Ireland is 
depicted as a poor wandering old woman whose sorrows 
impel the young men (the scene is cast in 1798) to for- 
sake all eise, even their brides on their wedding-day, and 
follow her call. The young hero in the play does this and 
the play closes with a question put by his family to a 
young boy who has just entered: 4 Did you see an old 
woman going down the path?\ to which he answers 
'I did not, but I saw a young girl, and she had the walk 
of a Queen \ We get here the identification of maiden, 
old woman, and queen (i.e. mother) so "characteristic of 
the unconscious conception of the mother. 

We now pass to apparently a different theme, the 
connection of which with the previous one, however, will 
be pointed out later. In every region of the world the 
belief may be found that there exists somewhere, usually 
in a Western sea, a magical island which is identified 

1 Geoffrey Keating : My Pity How Ireland Standeth, 1644 or 1650; 
translated by Pearse. 

2 Anti-Union speech by Grattan, May 26, 1800. 

8 O'Grady, Catalogue of Manuscripts in the British Museum, 1894, 
No. 3S5. 


with heaven. In Europe it goes under various names: 
Meropis, the continent of Kronos, Ogygia, Atlantis, the 
Garden of the Hesperides, the Fortunate Isles, and so on. 
The actual position of the island was depicted on many 
mediaeval maps, such as the one made by Lambertus 
Floridus in the twelfth Century, now in the Bibliotheque 
Nationale, Paris, the Hereford map of the thirteenth 
Century, and the twelfth Century map of the world in 
Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. 

There are three features regularly attaching to this 
concept: (i) in that land all wishes are fulfilled; (2) from 
it new souls emanate; (3) it is the land to which the dead 
depart. These three features will be considered in order. 
With the first of them psycho-analysts are very familiär. 
The phantasy of a life where all wishes are easily fulfilled, the 
unconscious 'omnipotence of thought', represents the desire 
to live over again the once-tasted experience of such an 
existence. The notion that such a life is possible is not 
so fantastic and pretentious as it may appear; we all 
actually experienced it at one period and we simply desire to 
return to this experience. I refer, of course, to the period of 
complete gratification passed through during intra-uterine 
life, the perfection of which gradually l fades into the light 
of common day*, as Wordsworth put it, in the succeeding 
stage of infancy and childhood. It is true that the joys 
to be tasted in the Fortunate Isle are depicted in more 
adult terms than this humble origin would suggest, a 
comprehensible enough fact, but it is noteworthy that the 
part played by feeding, the chief pleasure in infancy, is 
remarkably prominent in most of the descriptions. Few of 
these islands are without their fountain of life and eternal 
youth as well as a bounteous supply of golden apples, in 
which symbols it is not hard to recognise the mother's 
milk and breast; fruit, particularly apples, are a constant 


symbol of the breast in the unconscious. So natural, indeed, 
did the idea of luscious feeding seem to be in connection 
with the concept of a Fortunate Isle that the Mediaeval cari- 
catures of it — Cockaigne and Schlaraffenland, for instance 
— deal with little eise; roast geese parade the streets, 
adding the finishing touches to their condition by continu- 
ally turning as they walk, wine flows in rivers, and so on. 
There can be little doubt that unconscious memories of 
the mother's womb and breast extensively contributed to 
the formation of this phantasy of a wishless Paradise. The 
relation of it to the memory of the mother was plainly 
brought out in Sir James Barrie's play 'Mary Rose'. It 
will be remembered that the Peter-Pan-like heroine of the 
play, who quarreis with her husband and is afraid of her 
father but is devoted to her mother and her child, i. e. has 
an intense maternal fixation, is charmed away by the 
irresistible spell ot a magic island, which is depicted in 
the form of a woman with wooing music. Incidentally, 
music, i. e. the mother's soothing lullaby, is extensively 
associated with the ideas of children and the third of our 
themes, death. Throughout Northern Europe children were 
cautioned not to hearken to the sweet songs of the Elves 
(the music of which is known in Germany as Alpleich or 
Elfenreigen, in Sweden as ellfr-lek, in Iceland as liuflingslag, 
in Norway as Huldreslät) lest they be spirited away by 
Frau Holle, and Baring-Gould 1 has interestingly traced the 
same idea in many of our Dissenting hymns, e. g. 'Hark! 
hark, my soul! Angelic songs are swelling ', 'Sweet angels 
are calling to me from yon shore\ 

The second feature, that the island is where children 
originate, is the one that most unambiguously points to 
a maternal source. A place where children are born 

1 Baring-Gould: Curious Myths of the Middle Agcs, p. 425. 


evidently can be nothing eise but a symbol for the mother's 
womb. Largely through Otto Rank's detailed work, 1 we 
have become familiär with the extraordinarily extensive 
part played by the idea of water in myths and beliefs 
relating to birth, so that it is not surprising to find a 
place so closely connected with water as an island func- 
tioning as a common womb symbol; in individual psycho- 
analyses one is familiär enough with this. The frequent 
unconscious process of inversion of course aids this 
(a place contained by water instead of a place con- 
taining water). As is well known, in folklore and mythology 
babies mostly come from a river, a well, a pool, or the 
sea, at all events from a watery place where they are 
stored. In Wordsworth's poem quoted above, 'Intimations 
of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood', after 
speaking of the boy's birth from 4 that imperial palace 
whence he came\ he goes on to say: 

Hence, in a season of calm weather 
Though inland far we be, 
Our souls have sight of that immortal sea 
Which brought us hither, 
Can in a moment travel thither, 
And see the Children sport upon the shore, 
And hear the mighty waters rolling evermore. 

The meaning of the third feature, that the Fortunate 
Isle should also be the abode of the dead — : they are often 
for this reason called the Isles of the Blessed — is less 
obvious and only becomes intelligible when one remembers 
the idea, again commonly found both in folk belief and 
in the individual unconscious, that in dying one simply 

1 Otto Rank; Die Lohengrinsage, 191 1, S. 26-32, etc. 


returns to the place whence one came: 4 dust thou art 
and unto dust thou shalt return \ The unconscious mind 
cannot apprehend the idea of annihilation and Substitutes 
for it that of return to the Nirvana existence of pre-natal 
life. It is probable that on this is largely founded the 
belief in re-birth and reincarnation. 1 From this point of 
view it is quite comprehensible that what might be called 
the uterine conception of death is again closely associated 
with the idea of water. 2 That souls of the dead have to 
cross water before arriving at their final abode is an idea 
of which thousands of examples could be quoted, from 
the Greek Styx to Böcklin's Toteninsel. It is curious to 
note that remains of this pagan belief are to be found in 
many English hymns: 

Shall we meet beyond the river, 

Where the surges cease to roll, 

Where in all the bright Forever 

Sorrow ne'er shall press the soul? 

Shall we meet in that blest harbour, 
When our stormy voyage is o'er? 

Shall we meet and cast the anchor 
By the fair celestial shore? 

The following lines occur in the Lyra Messianica, in 
a poem on 4 The Last Voyage '. 

On! on! through the storm and the billow, 
By life's chequer'd troubles opprest, 

The rüde deck my home and my pillow, 
I sail to the land of the Blest. 

1 See Chs. XXXVIII and XXXIX of my Papers on Psycho- 
Analysis, 191 8. 

2 See Otto Rank: op. cit, and Psychoanalytische Beiträge zur 
Mythenforschung, 1919. 


Ye waters of gloom and of sorrow, 

How dread are your tumult and roar! 

But, on! for the brilliant to-morrow 

That dawns upon yonder bright shore! 

Now, ended all sighing and sadness, 

The vvaves of destruction all spent, 

I sing with the Children of gladness 
The song of immortal content. 

Or I may recall the lamiliar stanzas of Tennyson's 
Crossing the Bar': 

Sunset and evening star, 

And one clear call tor me! 
And may there be no moaning of the bar, 

When I put out to sea. 

But such a tide as moving seems asleep; 

Too füll for sound and foam, 
When that which drew from out the boundless deep 

Turns again home. 

We thus see that all aspects of the idea of an island 
Paradise are intimately connected with womb phantasies, 
with our deepest feelings about birth, death, and mother. 
Now the point I wish to make here is that this connection, 
although common enough elsewhere, is extraordinarily close 
in Irish thought. Without fear of contradiction it may be 
said that there is no culture so impregnated throughout 
with the various beliefs and legends associated with the 
idea of an island Paradise. 1 The number of Erse names 

1 The füllest accounts are collected in Jubainville's L'Epopee 
celtique en Irlande, 1892, and in the 'Essay upon the Irish vision of 
Happy Otherworld and the Celtic Doctrine of Re-Birth' by Alfred Nutt, the 
greatest authority on this subject, in Vol. II of Meyer's Voyage of Bran, 1897, 


for it is in itself indicative evidence of this. Thus: Thierna 
na oge, the Country of Youth; Tir-Innambeo, the Land of 
the Living; Tirno-nog, the Land of Youth; Tir Tairngire, 
the Land of Promise; Tir N-aill, the Other Land; Mag 
Mär, the Great Piain; Mag Meli, the Agreeable Piain. The 
Gaelic Flath Innis, the Noble Isle, to which the souls of 
the departed go, is evidently a variant of the same idea. 
The beliefs are made up of the elements we have 
considered above. We find there the fountain of life, the 
golden apples, children come from it and the dead return 
to it, Heroes set out to secure the wonderful Cauldron of 
Re-Birth, a typical womb symbol, just as elsewhere they 
did for the Holy Grail. Altogether the idea of re-birth in 
relation to the island of the Other -World plays a quite 
extraordinary part in Irish mythology. 1 The Fortunate Isles 
of the Irish were invariably in the West. From the Odyssey 
(xx, 356) onward the West has always been associated 
with the idea of death, and long before the War the usual 
expression in Munster for dying was 4 to go west\ 

We thus see, first that the idea of Ireland has been 
intimately associated with the ideas of woman, mother, 
nurse, and virgin 2 and, secondly, that no other country has 
shewn such an extensive and tenacious belief in the con- 
ception of a Western Isle possessing the uterine attributes 
of happiness, birth and death. It is no very far step to 
infer that the two themes are connected, that the Mkgic 
Isle was a glorified idealisation of the Irishman's own 
birthplace, Ireland; indeed the Norse, who adopted many 
Irish beliefs before their Leinster kingdom was destroyed 

1 See Alfred Nutt, op. cit. 

2 It is of interest that several writers have connected the national 
musical instrument of Ireland, the harp, with the sistrum of Isis, a well- 
known emblem of virginity. 


at Clontarf in 1 1 14, actually called it by the name of Ire- 
land hit Mikla (Greater Ireland). It is therefore quite 
comprehensible that the average Irishman should react to 
the idea of foreign invasion in a different manner from the 
conscientious objectors when faced with the usual question 
in their trial: what would you do if a German assaulted 
your mother? The primordial nature of the response that 
most men make to such a Situation is due, as psycho- 
analysis has amply shewn, to the deeply rooted Oedipus 
complex, to the sadistic conception formed by most boys 
of the cruel and violent nature of the father's love 
demonstrations towards the mother. 

Granted that this may have been true of the Irish in 
the past, have we any evidence that such ancient beliefs 
should have lingered on unconsciously and affected the 
people in modern times ? Quite apart from general 
expectations based on the permanence of the underlying 
complexes, there is a wealth of evidence indicating an 
affirmative answer to this question. It seems almost 
impossible for Irishmen to express their feelings on political 
subjects without using imagery similar to that described 
above, and they have shewn by their conduct that this 
imagery is pregnant with meaning to them. It is no chance 
that Ireland, alone of the constituent elements of the British 
Empire, refused in the sixteenth Century to relinquish the 
Catholic cult of the Virgin-Mother, and that virginity is 
nowhere held in higher' esteem. And it is perhaps more 
than a coincidence that some of the most implacable 
leaders ot the Republicans, such as De Valera, Erskine 
Childers, etc., are Irish only on their mother's side. 

Let us take as an example the first of the modern 
leaders, Charles Stewart Parnell, so long the adored chief 
of the Nationalist party. 4 The Parnells were supposed either 
to have concealed Fenians in their house, or documents 


of a compromising kind, or weapons. At all events a search 
party arrived, insisted on going through the house, would 
not be denied entrance anywhere, actually would penetrate 
to Mrs. Parnell's bedroom and turn possible hiding places 
upside down there with sacrilegious hand. That at least is 
how the young man at Cambridge received it when all 
was related to him. It was rank sacrilege and violation of 
what should have been the sanctity of his mother's room. . . . 
He brooded upon it probably more than a little morbidly. 
It grew to seem a monstrous thing. Its memory and its 
infamy influenced his whole nature. It turned him into a 
hater, a hater of the England by whose Order this thing 
had been done. . . . The men of the search party that had 
invaded his mother's bedroom do not seem to have found 
any thing ... unless it were a sword belonging to Charles 
which they took away with them. What he wanted with, 
or what right he had to the sword I do not know, but 
probably the taking of it from him was another coal laid 
on the fire ot his wrath.' 1 Or I may quote the following 
passage from Killiher's 'Glamour of Dublin', 1920: 'alone 
amidst the gross batterings ot material things, she Stands 
patient with her old sacred civilization — a reverence for 
youth, a worship oi womankind unique in an age ot 
apostasy, a devotion to lost causes that are so often but 
virtue herseif in distress — all these the Stigmata of her 
martyred but indestructible soul. 

And we love thee, O Bauba! 2 
Though the Spoiler be in thy hall, 
And thou art bereft of all, 
Save only that Spirit for friend 
Who shapes all things in the end: 

1 Hutchinson: Portraits 01 the Eighties, 1920, pp. 30, 31. 

2 One of the raany feminine tiames for Ireland. 


Though thine eyes are a sword that has slain 

Thy lovers on many a piain, 

When glad to the conflict they pressed 

Drunk with the light of thy breast 

To die for thee, Bauba! ' 

I will finish with a few passages taken from Speeches 
made in the spring of this very year. De Valera, in a 
speech on February 22, said: 'There were people who 
held Ireland was a mother country, and would never consent 
to making her a kind of illegitimate daughter. . . . Ireland, 
being a mother country, had a right to be in a position 
worthy of the dignity of a mother country.* In the same 
month Michael Collins wrote in a similar strain: ( at a 
Conference in London with the British representatives I 
made it quite clear that Ireland was a Mother country, 
with the duties and responsibilities of a Mother country/ 
On April 30 De Valera said of the Free Staters: 'They 
wanted them to come and hold Ireland while the shackles 
were being put upon her.' So the oldest and the youngest 
records of the Irish concur in resenting with the bitterness 
of despair, and now at last of triumph, the rape and 
violence offered to their beloved mother-land. 

The point of view brought forward in this essay is — I 
will not say too slight — but too isolated for one to draw 
safe practical conclusions from it. But I may perhaps be 
permitted to suggest that possibly history would have been 
different if England had had more inkling of the 
considerations here mentioned and had, instead of ravishing 
virgin Ireland as though she were a harlot, wooed her with 
the offer of an honourable alliance. That this was the only 
hopeful attitude was not seen until the chief power in 
England was entrusted to a Citizen of another small Celtic 


Whatever time may reveal about the historical personality 
of the Founder of Christianity, there is no doubt in the 
minds of those who have instituted studies into the com- 
parison of various religions that many of the beliefs centering 
about Hirn have been superadded to the original basis, 
having been derived from extraneous Pagan sources, and 
the name of Christian mythology may very well be applied 
to the study of these accretions. As Frazer 2 puts it; 
{ Nothing is more certain than that myths grow like weeds 
round the great historical figures of the past\ 

Some of the more important elements of this mythology 
have already been investigated by means of the psycho- 
analytic method by Freud. 3 Accordtng to him, the central 
dogma itself of the Christian religion — the belief that 
mankind is to be saved from its sins through the sacrifice 
of Je6us Christ on the cross — represents an elaboration of 
the primitive totemistic system. The essence of this System 
he sees in an attempt to allay the sense of guilt arising 
from the Oedipus complex, i. e. the impulse, gratified 
in primordial times, towards parricide and incest, there 

1 Read at the Seventh International Psycho-Analytical Congress, 
September 27, 1922. 

2 Frazer: Adonis, Attis, Osiris, 3rd Ed., 1914, p* 160. 

3 Freud: Totem und Tabu, 191 3, S. 142. 



being good reason to think that this complex is the ultimate 
source of the original sirT described by the theologians. 
This was the first great sin of mankind and the one from 
which our moral conscience and sense of guilt was born. 
The early history of mankind in this respect, the tendency 
towards this great sin and the moral reaction against it, 
is repeated by every child that comes into the world, and 
the story of religion is a never-ending attempt to overcome 
the Oedipus complex and to achieve peace of mind through 
atonement with the Father. Freud has pointed out that 
the most striking characteristic of the Christian Solution as 
compared with others, such as the Mithraic, is the way 
in which this atonement is achieved through surrender to 
the Father instead of through openly defying and overcoming 
him. This surrender, the prototype of which is the Cruci- 
fixion, is periodically repeated in the ceremony of the Höly 
Mass or Communion, which is psychologically equivalent 
to the totemistic banquet. In this way the jFather's wrath 
is averted and the Son takes his place as co-equal with 
Hirn. In the banquet is lived over again both the celebra- 
tion of the original deed of killing and eating the Father 
and the remorseful piety which desires re-union and identi- 
fication with him. It will be seen that, according to this view, 
the Christjan reconciliation with the Father is attained at the 
expense of over-development of the feminine component 

The present communication will, it is hoped, afford. 
confirmation of Freud's conclusions by a study on parallel 
lines. Some ten years ago I published in the Jahrbuch der 
Psychoanalyse an essay on the impregnation ot the Madonna 
and what I have to present here is largely based on a 
recently written expanded edition of the essay which is to 
appear in English. 1 The research there pursued led incident- 
ally to consideration of the following problem. 

1 Chapter VIII ot this book. 


In the Christian mythology a startling fact appears. It 
is the only one in which the original figures are no longer 
present, in which the Trinity to be worshipped no longer 
consists of the Father, Mother and Son. The Father and 
Son still appear, but the Mother, the reason for the whole 
conflict, has been replaced by the mysterious figure of 
the Holy Ghost. 

It seems impossible to come to any other conclusion 
than the one just enunciated. Not only must the Mother 
logically constitute the third member of any Trinity whose 
two other members are Father and Son, not only is this 
so in all the other numerous Trinities known to us, but 
there is a considerable amount of direct evidence indicat- 
ing that this was originally so in the Christian myth itself. 
Frazer 1 has collected some of the evidence to this effect 
and makes the conclusion highly probable on historical 
grounds alone. The original Mother, who was accepted by 
for instance the Ophitic sect as the third member of the 
Trinity, would appear to have been of mixed Babylonian 
and Egyptian origin, although there are not wanting indica- 
tions to shew that a misty Mother-figure floated in the back- 
ground of Hebrew theology also. Thus the passage in Gene- 
sis (i. 2) c And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of 
the waters ' should properly run 'The Mother of the 
Gods brooded (or fluttered) over the abyss and brought 
forth life \ a bird-like conception of the Mother which must 
remind us not only of the Holy Dove (i. e. the Holy 
Spirit that replaces the Mother), but also of the legend 
that Isis conceived Horus while fluttering in the shape of 
a hawk over the dead body of Osiris. While the sternly 
patriarchal Hebrew theology, however, banned the Mother 
to a subordinate part and the Messiah-Son to a remotely 
distant future, it nevertheless retained the normal relationship 

1 Frazer: The Dying God, 191 1, p. 5. 


of the three. It is probable, therefore, that any elucidation 
of the change from Mother to Holy Ghost would throw 
light on the inner nature of the psychological revolution 
betokened by the development of Judaism into Christianity. 

The mode of approach here adopted will be by con- 
sidering the circumstances of the conception of the Messiah. 
This approach is justified on two grounds. In the first 
place, as is well known, the figure of the Holy Ghost 
appears in the myth only as the procreative agent in the 
conception of the Son, and as an ambrosial benediction 
poured out on to the Son when the latter undergoes the 
initiatory rite of baptism (later on also in connection with 
the followers of the Son). In the second place, Otto 
Rank 1 has long ago shewn that the tendencies of a myth 
are revealed already in its earliest stages, in what he has 
termed the Myth of the Birth of the Hero. Consideration 
of the Christian myth makes it probable that this law 
holds good here also, so that a study of the conception 
of Jesus may throw light on the main tendencies and 
purposes of the whole myth. 

To begin with, the very idea of a conception being 
induced by a supernatural and abnormal means yields a 
clue to the mythical tendency. It teils us at once that 
there is some conflict present in the attitude towards the 
Father, for the unusual route of impregnation implies, as 
we know from other studies, a wish to repudiate the idea 
of the Father having played any part in it. There may 
or may not be present as well the opposite tendency to 
this — the desire to magnify admiringly the special power 
of the Father. This ambivalency is clearly seen in the 
primitive belief that children are begotten not of their Father, 
but through impregnation of the Mother by the particular 
clan totem, for the totem is simply an ancestral Substitute 

1 Otto Rank: Der Mythus von der Geburt des Helden, 1909. 


for the Father, a super-Father. It is thus not surprising 
to learn that the Christian myth must, like most other 
religious myths, be concemed with the age-old struggle 
between Father and Son. . 

It will be remembered that the conception of Jesus 
took place in a most unusual manner, As a rule, whenever 
a god wishes to impregnate a mortal woman, he appears 
on earth — either in human form or disguised as an animal 
with specially phallic attributes (a bull, a snake or what 
not) — and impregnates her by performing the usual act 
of sexual union. In the Madonna myth, on the other hand, 
God the Father does not appear at all, unless we regard 
the Archangel Gabriel as a personification of Hirn; the 
impregnation itself is effected by the angel's word ot 
greeting and the breath of a dove simultaneously entering 
the Madonna* s ear. The Dove itself, which is understood 
to represent the Holy Ghost, emanates from the Father's 
mouth. The Holy Ghost, therefore, and His breath play 
here the part of a sexual agent, and appear where we 
would logically expect to find a phallus and semen respec- 
tively. To quote St. Zeno: 'The womb of Mary swells 
forth by the Word, not by seed'j or, again, St. Eleutherius: 
i O blessed Virgin . . . made mother without Cooperation 
of man. For here the ear was the wife, and the angelic 
word the husband\ 

It will be seen that our problem is immediately 
complicated. To find that the mysterious figure replacing 
the Mother is a male being, who symbolises the creative 
elements of the Father, only adds a second enigma to the 
first. Before taking this up, however, it is necessary 
to consider more closely the details of the impregnation 

A comparative analysis of these leads to an unexpected 
conclusion. When we seek to discover how the idea of 



breath could have become invested in the primitive, i. e. 
unconscious, mind with the seminal connotation just indicated, 
we find that it does so in a very circuitous way. As I 
have shewn in detail in the work referred to above, the 
idea of breath does not have in the primitive mind the 
narrow and definite signification we now give to it. A study 
of Greek and Hindoo physiological philosophy in particular 
shews that breath used to have a much broader con- 
notation, that of the so-called pneuma concept, and that 
an important constituent of this concept — probably the 
greater part of at least its sexual aspects — were derived 
from another gaseous excretion, namely that proceeding 
from the lower end of the alimentary canal. It is this 
down-going breath, as it is termed in the Vedic literature, 
which is the fertilising element in the various beliefs ol 
creation through speech or breath. Similarly, analysis of 
the idea of the ear as a female receptive organ leads to 
the conclusion that this is a symbolic replacement, a 
i displacement from below upwards', of corresponding 
thoughts relating to the lower orifice of the alimentary 
canal. Putting these two conclusions together, we can 
hardly avoid the inference that the mythical legend in 
question represents a highly refined and disguised elaboration 
of the 'infantile sexual theory', to which I have elsewhere 
drawn attention, 1 according to which fecundation is supposed 
to be effected through the passage of intestinal gas from 
the Father to the Mother. I have also pointed out why 
this most repellent of sexual phantasies should lend itselt 
better than any other to the conveyance of the most 
exalted and Spiritual ideas of which the mind is capable. 

Now there are certain characteristic features ac* 
companying this infantile theory which we can discover 
by means of individual psycho-analyses of persons holding 

1 Jahrbuch der Psychoanalyse, 1912, Band IV, S. 588 et seq. 


it, as well as from a study of the comparative material in 
association with it. Superficially considered it would appear to 
imply a denial of the Father's potency and to represent a form 
of castration wish; and no doubt this is in part true. Yet, on the 
other hand, one is astonished to find that throughout all the 
numerous associations to the idea of creation in connection with 
wind there is nearly always implied the very opposite idea 
of a powerful concrete phallus which expels the wind. 
Thus in most of the beliefs attaching in all parts of 
the world to the idea of divine creative thunder there 
is also present some sort of thunder-weapon, the best- 
known and most widely spread of which is the bull-roarer. 
Further than this, the idea of impregnation by means ot 
wind itself would seem to be regularly regarded by the 
primitive mind as a sign of peculiarly great potency, as 
if the power to create by a mere sound, a word or even 
a thought, were a final demonstration of tremendous 
virility. This reaches its acme in the notion of conception 
without even sound, by a silent thought alone, such as in 
the belief cherished by various nuns in the Middle Ages that 
they had conceived because Jesus had 'thought on them\ 
An excellent example of this complex of ideas, inter- 
esting from several points of view, is afforded by certain 
Egyptian beliefs about the crocodile. They also bear 
directly on the present theme, for the crocodile was taken 
by early Christians to be a symbol for the Logos or Holy 
Ghost; moreover, the creature was believed to impregnate 
his mate, just like the Virgin Mary, through the ear. Now 
on the one hand the crocodile was notable to the ancients 
for having no external genital organs, no tongue and no voice 
(symbolic indications of impotency), and yet on the other 
hand — in spite of these purely negative qualities (or perhaps 
just because of them) — he was regarded as the highest 
type of sexual virility, and a number of aphrodisiac customs 


were based on this belief. The crocodile was an emblem 
of wisdom, like the serpent and other phallic objects, and 
as such figures on the breast of Minerva, so that the 
ancients seem to have reached the conclusion that the 
most potent agent in all creation was the Silence of Man, 
the omnipotence of thought being even more impressive 
than the omnipotence of speech. 

We know that this over-emphasis on paternal potency 
is not a primary phenomenon, but is a transference from 
personal narcissism in response to the fear of castration 
as a punishment for castration wishes. We thus come to 
the conclusion, which is amply borne out by individual 
psycho-analyses, th&t a belief in a gaseous impregnation 
represents a reaction to an unusually intense castration 
phantasy, and that it occurs only when the attitude towards 
the Father is particularly ambivalent, hostile denial ot 
potency alternating with affirmation of and subjection to 
supreme might. 

Both of these attitudes are indicated in the Christian 
myth. The occurrence of impregnation by action ä distance, 
merely through messengers, and the choice of a gaseous 
route, reveal an idea of tremendous potency, one to which 
the Son is throughout subjected. On the other hand, the 
instrument employed to eflfect the impregnation is far from 
being a specially virile one. Though the Dove is evidently 
a phallic symbol — it was in the guise of a dove that Zeus 
seduced Phtheia, and doves were the amor-like emblems 
of all the great love-goddesses, Astarte, Semiramis, Aphrodite 
and the rest — still it plainly owes its association with love 
principally to the gentle and caressing nature of its wooing. 
We may thus say that it is one of the most effeminate 
of all the phallic emblems. 

It is thus clear that the Father's might is manifested 
only at the expense of being associated with considerable 


effeminacy. The same theme is even more evident in the 
case of the Son. He attains greatness, including final 
possession of the Mother and reconciliation with the Father, 
only after undergoing the extremity of humiliation together 
with a symbolic castration and death. A similar path is 
laid down for every follower of Jesus, salvation being 
purchased at the price of gentleness, humility, and Sub- 
mission to the Father's will. This path has logically led in 
extreme cases to actual self-castration and always leads 
in that direction, though of course it is in practice replaced 
by various acts symbolising this. There is a double gain 
in this. Object-love for the Mother is replaced by a 
regression to the original identification with her, so 
that incest is avoided and the Father pacified; further the 
opportunity is given of winning the Father's love by the 
adoption of a feminine attitude towards him. Peace of 
mind is purchased by means of a change in heart in the 
direction of a change in sex. 

We return at this point to the problem raised above 
of the psychological signification of the Holy Ghost. We 
have seen that He is composed of a combination of the 
original Mother-Goddess with the creative essence (genital 
organs) of the Father. From this point of view one ap- 
proaches an understanding of the peculiar awfulness of 
blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, the so-called c unpar- 
donable sin', for such an offence would symbolically be 
equivalent to a defilement of the Holy Mother and an 
attempted castration of the Father. It would be a repetition 
of the primordial sin, the beginning of all sin, gratification ot 
the Oedipus impulse. This is in complete harmony with 
our clinical experience that neurotics nearly always identify 
this sin with the act of masturbation, the psychological 
significance of which we now know to be due to its un~ 
conscious association with incestuous wishes. 


So far the figure of the Holy Ghost may be held to 
correspond with the terrible image of the phantastic ' woman 
with the penis', the primal Mother. But the matter is 
more complicated. On union of the Mother with the 
Father's creätive agent all femininity vanishes, and the figure 
becomes indisputably male. This reversal of sex is the 
real problem. 

For the reasons given above this change in sex must 
have something to do with the act of begetting, and here 
we are reminded of another curious change in sex con- 
nected with the same act. In his brilliant researches into 
the initiation rites and couvade ceremonies of savages 
Reik 1 has shewn that the most important tendency per- 
meating these is the endeavour to counter the Oedipus- 
complex — i. e. the wish for Father-murder and Mother- 
incest — by a very peculiar and yet logical enough device. 
Acting on the deeply-seated conviction that the foundation 
of the fatal attraction towards the Mother is the physical 
fact of one's having been born by her, a conviction which 
has some real basis, savages enter upon various complicated 
procedures the essential aim of which is so far as possible 
to annul this physical fact and to establish the fiction that 
the boy has been at all events re-born by the Father. In 
this way the Father hopes to abrogate the incestuous 
wishes on the one hand and to bind the youth more 
closely to him on the other, both these aims diminishing 
the risk of parricide. Put in terms of the instincts this 
mearis that an incestuous heterosexuai fixation is replaced 
by a sublimated homosexuality. 

When we reflect how widely spread is this tendency 
— the rites themselves, as Reik remarks, are found in 
every part of the world — it would not seem too bold to 

1 Reik: Probleme der Religionspsychologie, 1919, Ch. II and III. 


ascribe to it also the Substitution of the male for the 
female sex in the case under discussion. I would therefore 
suggest that the replacernent of the Mother-Goddess by 
the Holy Ghost is a manife Station of the desirability of 
renouncing incestuous and parricidal wishes and replacing 
them by a stronger attachment to the Father, a phenomenon 
havingthe same signification as the initiatory rites of savages. 
Hence the greater prominence in Christianity, as compared 
with Judaism, of personal love for God the Father. In 
support of the conclusion may further be quoted the 
extensive part played by § ublimated homosexual itv throughout 
the Christian religion. The exceptional precept of universal 
brother-love, that one should not only love one's neigh- 
bour as oneself but also one's enemies, makes a demand 
on social feeling that can be met, as Freud has pointed 
out, only from homosexual sources of feeling. Then the 
effeminate costume of the priests, their compulsory celibacy, 
shaven head, and so on, plainly signify deprivation of 
masculine attributes, being thus equivalent to symbolic 
s elf-castration. 

The figure thus created represents an androgynic 
compromise. In surrendering some elements of virility it 
gains the special female prerogative of child-bearing, and 
thus combines the advantages of both sexes. The herma- 
phroditic idearoffered to the world by Christianity has proved 
of tremendous importance to humanity. We have in it a 
great reason for the enormous civilising influence of Christi- 
anity, since the civilising of primitive man essentially means 
the mastery of the Oedipus complex and the transformation 
of much of it into sublimated homosexuality (i.e. herd 
instinct), without which no social Community can exist. We 
realise also why a real conversion to Christianity is typically 
described as being 4 re-born of the Holy Ghost ', and why 
immersion in water (a birth symbolism) is the official sign 


of it; we have here, further, the explanation of the curious 
finding, which I have pointed out previously, 1 that the 
baptismal fluid is lineally derived from a bodily fluid 
(semen, urine) of the Father. It should, incidentally, be no 
longer stränge that the most vivid forms of religious con- 
version are seen either at puberty, i. e. the homosexual 
phase of adolescence, or, in adult life, with drunkards; it 
will be remembered that drunkenness is a specific sign of 
mental conflict over the subject of repressed homo- 

The conclusions thus reached accord well with those 
reached by Freud along other lines regarding the connection 
between Christianity and totemism. Christianity constitutes 
in large part both a veiled regression to the primitive 
totemistic system and at the same time a refinement of 
this. It resembles it in the sharpness of the ambivalency 
towards the Father, though in it the hostile component 
has undergone a still further stage in repression. It also 
agrees with the tendency of the primitive initiation ceremonies 
as disclosed by Reik, but it indicates a progress beyond 
these inasmuch as the shifting of procreative importance from 
the female to the male sex is put backward from the 
time of puberty to that of birth, just as, incidentally, the 
initiatory rite of baptism subsequently was. Instead of the 
maternal birth being nullified by a symbolic paternal re- 
birth at the time of puberty, the birth itself is mytho- 
logically treated on these lines. 

In discussing the fate of the original Mother-Goddess 
and her transformation into the Holy Ghost we have passed 
by a very obvious consideration. Although in the Christian 
Trinity itself the Holy Ghost is the only figure that replaces 
the primal Mother, nevertheless there is in Christian 
theology a female figure, the Virgin Mary, who also plays 

1 Chapter IV, p. 164, etc. 


an important park It would thus be truer to say that the 
original Goddess has been ( decomposed' — to use a myther 
logical term — int(> two, one of which goes to make the 
Holy Ghost and the other of which becomes the Madonna. 
To complete our analysis a little should be said about the 
latter figure. 

By a divine Father or Mother, i. e. God or Goddess, 
we mean, from a purely psychological point of view, an 
infantile coneeption of a Father or Mother, a figure 
invested with all the attributes of power and perfection 
and regarded with respect or awe. The decomposition 
in question, therefore, signifies that the divine, i. e. infantile, 
attributes of the original Mother image have been trans- 
ferred to the idea of the Holy Ghost, while the purely 
human, i.e. adult, attributes have been retained in the 
form of a simple woman. Apart from the change in sex 
that oecurs in the former case, which has been considered 
above, the process is akin to the divorce that normally 
obtains during the years of adolescence, when the youth, 
following the dichotomy of his own feelings, divides women 
into two classes — human accessible ones and unapproach- 
able forbidden figures of respect, the extreme types being 
the harlot and 4 lady' respectively. We know from countless 
individual psycho-analyses that this Splitting is simply a 
projeetion of the dissociation that oecurs in the feelings 
originally entertained by the boy for the Mother; those 
that have been deflected from a sexual goal become 
attached to various figures of respect, while the crudely 
erotic ones are allowed to appear only in regard to a 
certain class of woman, harlot, servant, and so on. Both 
the Mady' and the harlot are thus derivatives of the 
Mother figure. So we infer that the division of the original 
Goddess into two figures in Christianity is a manifestation ot 
the same repression of incestuous impulses. 


Light is thrown on the part played by the Virgin 
Mary both by these considerations and by comparison of 
the woman in Christian mythology with the woman of 
other Trinities. For this purpose we may select the three 
that have been so fully studied by Frazer, three which 
seriously competed with Christianity in its early days and 
which were the sources of some of its most prominent 
elements. I refer to the three Saviour-Gods Adonis, Attis 
and Osiris. With all these we have a Son-Lover who dies, 
usually being castrated as well, who is periodically mourned, 
chiefly by women, and whose resurrection betokens the 
welfare or salvation of humanity. Two of these contrast with 
the third in the following interesting respect. With Adonis and 
Attis the Mother-Goddess, Astarte or Cybele respectively, 
towers in importance over the young Saviour; Osiris on 
the other hand is at least as distinguished and powerful as 
an Isis. Frazer writes : * ' Whereas legend generally repre- 
sented Adonis and Attis as simple swains, mere herdsmen 
or hunters whom the fatal love of a goddess had elevated 
above their homely sphere into a brief and melancholy 
preeminence, Osiris uniformly appears in tradition as a 
great and beneficent king\ Later on, 2 however, he suggests 

that 'This seems to indicate that in 

the beginning Isis was, what Astarte and Cybele continued 
to be, the stronger divinity of the pair\ Thus, in the 
series: Astarte, Isis, Mary we have a gradation in the 
diminishing greatness of the primal Mother. Although Mary 
retains the attributes of perfection, she has lost those of 
divine and unapproachable grandeur and becomes simply a 
good woman. This Subordination of the primal Mother, and 
her deprivation of the infantile conception of divinity, 
would seem to accord well with the view expressed above of 

1 Frazer: Adonis, Attis, Osiris, 1914, pp. 158, 159. 

2 ibid. p. 202. 


the tendency in the Christian myth to exalt the Father 
at the expense of the Mother. The significance of this is, 
as has been indicated, to counter the incest wish by 
instituting a closer bond with the Father. 

Reflection on the history of Christianity shews that 
its object has been gained only in part, that the Solution 
provided of the Oedipus complex was not one of universal 
applicability, and that the age-old conflict between Father 
and Son has continued to lead to further efforts to solve 
it. The transition from the Mother to the Holy Ghost was 
not accomplished without a struggle even at the beginning, 
as might have been expected in a Community always 
accustomed to Goddess worship. Several sects tried to 
maintain the divinity of Mary, the obvious successor of 
Isis, Hera, Astarte, Aphrodite and the rest, and the Mel- 
chite attempt to retain the original Trinity of Father, Mary, 
and Messiah was crushed only at the Council of Nice. For 
a thousand years matters proceeded quietly, perhaps be- 
cause of the astounding syncretizing activity of those years 
in assimilating Pagan mythology of all kinds, including 
most of that pertaining to the earlier Mother-Goddesses. 
After this time, however, voices were increasingly raised 
in favour of according the Virgin Mary a loftier part in 
the hierarchy. This tendency won the day in the Catholic 
Church and may be said to be still proceeding, for it is 
hardly more than half a Century since the last step was 
taken of pronouncing that she herseif was also conceived 
immaculately. The human need for a Mother to worship 
was too strong, so that She had to be reinstated. 
Christianity here, therefore, as in so many other respects, 
effected a compromise between the Hebraic tendency to- 
wards an androgenic conception and the Classical tendency 
towards acknowledgement of the Mother-Goddess as a 
central figure. 


The peculiarly Christian Solution, which was later 
adulterated by Catholicism, was thus a lineal descendant 
of the Hebraic tendency. The Protestant Reformation was 
clearly an attempt to reinforce the original Solution and to 
carry it to its logical conclusion by abolishing all traces 
of Mariolatry from religion; only those who have witnessed 
the horror with which the 'Red Woman ' is mentioned 
among the extreme Protestant sections of the Community 
can fully appreciate the strength of this impulse. It is 
interesting, further, to note that the more completely is 
this process carried out the less necessity is there to adopt 
a homosexual attitude in religion; the extreme Protestant 
ministers not only marry, but discard all special costume 
and other indications of a feminine röle, whereas all the 
self-castrating tendencies are more evident where Mariolatry 
is highly developed. Onemight perhapssay that the Protestant 
Solution of the Oedipus complex is the replacement of the 
Mother by the Woman, while the Catholic one consists in the 
change of the masculine to the feminine attitude. 


When the number of the page on which a quotation occars is given in Roman 
figures, the füll title of the work from which the quotation is taken will be founrt 
on the last page before this the numbering of which is given in italic figures. 

Abercrotnby, 277. 

Abimelech, 190. 

Ablution, 163. 

Aboulia, 11, 29. 

Abraham, Karl, 4, 48, jo, jj, 

86, 110, 138-9, 148, 177, 196, 

260, 281, 286, ßo6. 
Abraham, 76. 
Abruzzi, 173. 
Abstinence, 139. 
Abtin, 77. 
Abu-Rabah, 302. 
Acata}', 140. 
Acrisios, 81. 
Adam, 342. 
Adfou, 347. 
Adonis, 333, 428. 
Adultery, 37, 84, 302. 
Ady, 126. 
Aedh, 167. 
Aeneas, 335. 
Aesculapeus, 109. 
Aesthetic feeling, 359. 
Aesthetics, i, 2, 261. See under 

Afflatus, 289. 
Agni, 311, 336. 
Aiglon phantasy, 211. 
Aigretnont, 182. 
Aitareya-Aranyaka, 299, 300. 
Alaska, 158, 166, 170. 
Alchemy, 117. 
Alcohol, 141, 162. 

Alfoors of Poso, 393. 
Algonkin mythology, 276. 
Aloofness, 209, 211-12, 214, 223. 

See also Inaccessibility. 
Altmark, 137. 
Altruism, 382. 

Ambivalency, 192, 350, 352, 426. 
Ambrosia, 177, 315, 335. 
Amenhotep IV, 4. 
Amleth, 65, 71, 77-8, 84, 88-93, 97- 
Amiod, 88. 
Amphion, 75, 85. 
Amritabindhu, 299, 300. 
Amsanctus, 303. 
Amulets, 326. 
Anacreon, 335. 
Andree y 14$. 

Anal erotism, 104, 313, 355. 
Angekok, 161. 
Angelico, 343. 
Angelo ) Michael, 227, 229. 
Aniximenes, 293. 
Annunciation, 321-41. 
D'Annunzio, 2. 
Anthropocentric, 28. 
Anthropomorphic, 28. 
Apana, 290, 299, 300, 302, 310, 

Apep, 347. 
Aphrodite, 325, 333, 335, 422, 

Apollo, 282. 
Apotropaic measures, 285, 316. 


43 2 


Apollonius, 325. 

Archangel Gabriel, 357 -8* 

Architecture, 262-3. 

Argonauts, 335. 

Aristophanes, 284. 

Aristotle, 279, 296, 297, 307, 308. 

Arneth, 267, 

Amulphy, 295. 

Aromatics, 313, 315-6, 331. 

Arrian, 124. 

Art, 1, 3, 4, 22, 227, 359. See 

also Poetic creation and 

Arteries, 296. 
Asafoetida, 317. 
Assen, 88. 

Astarte, 333, 422, 428, 429. 
Astrology, 215. 
Atchley, 314. 

Athene, 291, 296, 330, 345. 
Atlantis, 406. 
Atman, 293. 
Atomic theory, 294. 
Atomists, 307. 
Atri, 312. 
Atteridge, 245. 
Atti, 312. 
Attic salt, 127. 
Attila, 190. 
Attis, 428. 
Aubrey, 184. 
Augustine, 296. 
Aurora, 277. 
Auto-erotism, 209, 213. 
Avenging, 81, 95. See also 

Aviation, 326. 
Avicenna, 159. 
Aymonier, 139. 

Bab, 160, 304. 

Babel, Tower of, 354. 

Bachelorhood, 48. 

Bachofen, 331. 

Bacon, 373, 

Baker, 162, 165, 166. 

Bancels, Lar guier Des, 274. 

Bancroft, 139, 161, 166, 179, 270. 

Banquet, totemistic, 416. 

Baptism, 121, 125, 138, 161, 

163, 164, 301, 302, 337, 418, 426. 
Baptist sect, 163. 
Barbarossa, Friedrich, 190. 
Bareshnun, 167. 
Baring-Gould, 407, 
Barrenness, 122-3, *34> J 3 6 > *55i 

160, 164, 189. 
Barrie, Sir James, 40 7. 
Bartoli, Taddeo, 358. 
Barton, 334, 
Baths, 156, 302. 
Bauba, 402. 

Baumgart, 15, 23, 25, 26. 
Bawdiness, 52. 
Bayley, 114. 
Beak, 329, 330. 
Beauty, 1, 262. 
Bed-wetting, 307. 
Beissel, 358. 
Bekker, 147. 
Belgium, 137, 185. 
Belief. See under Customs. 
Belle forest, 62, 63, 71, 84, 88, 94. 
Benedix, 20. 
Bent, 347. 
Berecinthia, 166. 
Bemhardy, 64. 
Betel-nut, 186. 
Bethe, 315. 



Bewitched, 121, 158. 
Birth, 123, 149, 426. 
Birlinger, 160. 
Black, 164. 
Blinkenberg, 286. 
Blood, 161, 172, 173, 175, 199. 
Blood-Covenant, 172. 
Boas, 138, 328. 
Boas and Hunt, 343. 
Böcklin, 409. 
Bodensted, 48. 
Bodin, 113, 120. 
Bog, 193. 
Boismon, De, 41. 
Bona Dea, 167. 
Bonaparte, Louis, 245-60. 
Bone, 152-3, 175. 
Book of the Dead, 350. 
Book of Gates, 347. 
Börne, 10. 
Bosman, 180. 
Bothwell, 8. 
Bottari, 229. 

Bound-soul. See under Soul. 
Bourke, iji, 152, 156-9, 162, 
164-6, 169-71, 183, 188, ßj2, 354. 
Bousfield, 34g. 
Bousquet, 121. 
Bouvaine, 285. 
Boyle, 146. 
Bradley, 6, 13, 15, 30, 39, 48, 

52, 55/ J9- 
Brand, 114, 115-6, 118, 124, 

129, 130, 139, 146, 157-8, 

160, 184-6, 196, 197. 
Brandes, 6g. 
Bread, 181-5, 187. 

Bread and salt, 129. 

Cockle-bread, 184. 

Breath, 169, 420. 

Breath of God, 294. 

Breath Soul, 292-3, 301, 319. 

Down-going breath, 275. 

Intestinal breath, 304. 
Brett, 294, 297, 304, 309, 316. 
Bride- Ale, 157. 
Brihadaranyaka-Upanishad, 291, 

Brill, 171. 
Brinton, 2j6. 
Britannia, 402. 
Broadley, 170. 
Brontephobia, 283. 
Bronton, 283. 
Bronzino, 282. 
Brooding, 326, 329. 
Brother-sister complex, 82-3, 85. 
Browning, 180, 229, 231, 236, 

242, 243. 
Brozvn-Sequard, 143. 
Brücke, 23g. 
Brunet, 283. 

Brutus, 67, 69-72, 76, 88. 
Bück, 160. 
Buddha, 205. 

Budge, Wallis, 32s, 326, 349, 350. 
Bull, 284. 

Bull-roarer, 285-6, 320, 421. 
Bulthaupt, ij. 
Burckhardt, 11g, 120. 

Cabanis, 29J. 
Caesar, 67, 69-71, 334. 
Caffre, 393. 
Cahier, 330. 
Cambac6r6s, 250, 253. 
Camden, 123. 



Canons, 22. 
Carthage, 190. 
Cassandra, 343. 

Complex, 211, 222, 351, 352. 

Seif-, 423, 430. 

Wishes, 422. 
Cats, 350. 

Catacombs, 327, 337. 
Cathartic, 316. 
Cauldron of Re-Birth, 411. 
Cedar, 344. 
Cellar, 146. 
Ceres, 182. 
Champagny, De, 253. 
Characterology, 391. 
Charms, 113. 
Charonia, 302. 
Chastity, 324. 
Cheese, 183. 

Groaning cheese, 183. 
Cheops, 348. 
Chepara, 352. 
Chevaliers et Chevali6res de la 

Colombe, 334. 
Chigemounie, 268. 
Childbirth, 158. 
Chiläers, Erskine, 412. 
Childhood memories, 4. 
Childlessness, 180. 
Children, 121. 
Chimala, 270. 
Chimney, 133, 144. 
Ching-Mou, 283. 
Chinsi, 337. 
Chloris, 277. 

mythology, 415, 428. 

theology, 325. 

Cicognara, 266. 

Circumcision, 16, 125, 138. 

Clan, totem, 418. 

Claudio, 33. 

Claudius, 7, 16, 17, 36, 37, 42, 

51, 68, 70, 77, 78, 83, 85, 94. 
Clavigero, 166. 
Clement of Alexandria, 294. 
Cloaca, 105, 149, 349. 
Clovis, 335. 
Cochrane, 165. 
Cockaigne, 407. 
Cockle-bread, 184. 
Cohn, 64, 

Coleridge, Hartley, n, 14. 
Coleridge, S. T., 8, 10. 
Collins, Michael, 414. 
Colombe inspiratrice, 338. 
Columbia, 402. 
Communion, Holy, 416. 
Compacts, 115. 
Condensation, 75. 
Confarreatio, 186. 
Conflicts, 11, 24, 27, 46, 54, 58, 

93* 96, 254. 
Connolly, 39. 
Conscience, moral, 416. 
Conscious ego, 34. 
Continental blockade, 247. 
Conway, 116, 121, 124. 
Cooing, 340. 
Cook, 159. 
Coprophemia, 394. 
Coprophilia, 101, 105, 262-3, 3:3. 
Corambis, 92. 
Corbin, 6). 
Coriolanus, 66. 
Corpse, 116, 152, 153. 
Corruption, 116. 



Corson, 15. 

Cosmic respiration, 304. See 

Cosmogonies, 92, 344. 
Cotterill, 284. 
Couvade, 424. 
Covenants, 113, 124. 
Cow, 169. 
Cox, G. J¥., 145. 
Cox, M„ 19J. 
Coxe, 166. 
Craik, 69. 
Cowardice* 59. 
Creative power, 221. 
Creative temperament, 243. 
Creitzer, 296. 

Crocodile, 347, 349-5 1 » 4 21 - 
Crooke, 141. 
Cross, 144. 
Crucifixion, 416. 
Cruelty, 381-2. 
Cruikshank, 170. 
Cuneiform, 344. 
Curiosity, 90, 103, 207, 214. 
Curse, 190. 
Curtiss, 302. 
Customs and Belief s: 

Abyssinian, 115. 

Albigenses, 188. 

Alfoors of Poso, 393. 

Arabian, 195, 172. 

Aruntas, 276. 

Asiatic, 160. 

Assyrian, 310, 344. 

Australian, 174. 

Auxerre, 326. 

Babylonian, 344, 345. 

Basque, 166. 

Bavarian, 185. 

Customs and Beliefs (continued): 
Bechuanaland, 347. 
Bedouins, 173. 
Behar, 174. 
Belgian, 137, 185. 
Bihors, 174. 
Binhyas, 277. 
Boaetia, 279. 
Bohemian, 144, 180. 
Brahman, 293. 
Brahmin, 168. 
Brazil, 352. 
Buriats, 165. 
Burmese, 197. 
Byzantine, 266. 
Caffre, 393. 
Cambodia, 160. 
Cape Graf ton, 337. 
Cappadocia, 279. 
Carib, 175. 
Catharistes, 188. 
China, 173, 177, 195. 
Cyros, 88. 
Dards, 173. 
Devonshire, 185. 
Dinkas, 165. 
Dusuns, 173. 
Dyak, 139. 
Egyptian, 116, 130, 138, 139, 

153» J 7 2 > 2II > 34& 
Eskimos, 158, 178. 
Esthonian, 144. 
Ethiopia, 315. 
Eton, 118. 
Finland, 174-76. 
Florida, 166. 
German, 195. 
Gipsies, 173, 178. 
Greece, 130, 202, 211. 


43 6 


Customs and Beliefs {continued) : 
Guinea, 180. 
Hindoo, 166-8, 186. 
Hottentot, 159, 161, 163, 170. 
Hungarian, 152. 
Iberians, 172. 
Iceland, 166. 
Iranian, 73. 
Irish, 130, 166, 172. 
Jewish, 129, 161. 
Kadiack, 179. 
Kakian, 352, 353. 
Karens, 173. 
Kayans, 172. 
Käyasth, 174. 
Kewat, 174. 
Kharwär, 174. 
Kurmi, 174. 
Lampong, 277. 
Latookas, 165. 
Limousin, 136. 

Luang-Sermata Islands, 276. 
Lybia, 338. 
L\^dian, 172. 
Madagascar, 173. 
Manchus, 186. 
Manichaean, 167, 188. 
Maori, 351. 
Melchites, 325. 
Mexico, 140, 175, 282. 
Minchassers, 276. 
Mohammedan, 268. 
Moorish, 156. 
Muscovites, 115. 
Negro, 185. 
Nestorian, 187. 
New Zealand, 282. 
Nicaragua, 140. 
Norse, 284. 

Customs and Beliefs {continued): 

Norwegian, 174. 

Obbonatives, 166. 

Ounalashka, 166. 

Pamproux, 137. 

Paphos, 333. 

Parisian, 187. 

Parsee, 161. 

Peru, 140. 

Persian, 211. 

Phrygian, 283, 329. 

Pirna, 139. 

Polynesian, 328. 

Potsdam, 182. 

Prussian, 196. 

Pyrenees, 136. 

Roman, 129, 130, 137, 145, 
170, 182, 186, 190, 205. 

Russian, 182. 

Samoa, 279. 

Scandinavia, 166, 175, 186. 

Scotland, 137, 164. 

Sepoys, 115. 

Siam, 160, 173. 

Siberian 165. 

Southern Slavs, 182. 

Spain, 166. 

Syrian, 173, 333. 
• Tchuktchees, 166. 

Thuringia, 155, 281. 

Tibet, 159. 

Transylvania, 155, 178, 185. 

Tschuktschis, 157. 

Uganda, 140. 

Vancouver Indians, 166. 

Welsh, 116, 183, 184, 187, 193. 

Wukas, 173. 

Zoroastrian, 161. 



Cybele, 167, 428. 
Cynicism, 44. 

Cyprus, 277. 
Cyrus, 75, 84, 85. 

Dalyell, 116, 121-3, 125, 129, 

130, 197. 
Danae, 81. 

Dancing, 170, 171, 262. 
Darnley, 8. 
Death, 42-5. 

Death-wishes, 65, 77, 211. 
Desensualisation, 321. 
Decazes, 256. 
Decline of superstition, 203. See 

also Superstition. 
Decomposition, 75, 76, 79, 81, 

84, 85, 92. 

Intestinal, 274. 

Mythological, 322. 

Putrefaction, 152. 
Dekker, 12g. 
Delbrück, 86. 
Delius, 70. 
Delphi, 282. 

Del Sarto, Andrea, 227-44. 
Deluge, 336. 

Delusion of jealousy, 258, 259. 
Delusion of persecution, 251, 258. 
Demons, 126, 197. 
Demons, Evil, 120, 121. 
Depression, 37, 248. 
Desire to protect, 222. 
Detter, 72. 

Deussen, 270, 293, 299. 
De Valera, 412, 414. 
Devil, 120, 158, 285. 

Devil's Feasts, 219. 

Diathesis, 295. 

Diderot, 50. 

Didron, 337. 

Dietrich, 19, 51, 302. 

Diogenes, 291, 294, 303. 

Dionysian mysteries, 285. 

Dionysius, 72. 

Disinfectant, 317. 

Distillation, 314. 

Divine Fire, 305. 

Dodona, 338. 

Doheny, Michael, 403. 

Doils, 340. 

Doltish, 72. 

Döring, 7, 39, 60. 

Doubling, 84, 85. 

Doubts, 96. 

Dove, 321-41, 356,357,419,422. 

Dove of the Pazzi, 336. 

Holy, 417. 
Dow den, 20. 
Down-going breath, 275. See also 

Dragons, 311. 
Draughts, 295. 
Drunkenness, 426. 
Dubois, 167. 
Dulaure, 1J7. 
Dumbness, 348. 
Dupre, 89. 
Dupuoy, 331. 
Durability of salt, 113. 
Durville, 295. 
D y in g> 99, 104, 109. 

Earl of Essex, 8, 60, 67. 
Eclipse, 284. 
Eden, 289. 
Garden of, 344. 



Eels, 328. 

Effluvia, 313, 316. 

Egocentricity, 242. 

Egotism, 44, 381-2. 

Eisler, 290. 

Ejaculatio praecox, 196. 

Elfenreigen, 407. 

Elias Artista Hermetica, 118. 

Elisha, 122. 

Ellfr-lek, 407. 

Ellis, Havelock, 239. 

Elohim, 329. 

Elton, 65, 7/. 

Elze, 8, 63. 

Embalming, 116, 

Emmenagögue, 316. 

Engano, 277. 

Ennemoser, 124. 

Erection, 326. 

Erin, 402. 

Erman, 168. 

Essential, 314. 

Ether, 294. 

Etymology, 192, 339. 

Eucharist, 187, 188. 

Euphrosyne, 277. 

Evaporation, 314. 

Eve, 288-9, 342-3. 

Evil eye, 120, 121. 

Exchange of rapiers, 83. 

Exhalations, 316. 

Exhibitionism, 209, 213, 225, 311. 

Eye. See under Evil eye. 

Ezekiel, 283, 345. 

Fairies, 158. 

Father, 282, 325, 352. 

Father-daughter complex, 82. 

Father-son complex, 83. 

Reconciliation with the, 416, 


Rival father, 74. 

Tyrannical father, 74, 75. 
Feast of Fools, 170. 
Fecundity, 122, 123, 134, 136, 

152, 189. 
Federn^ 148, 326. 
Fede, Lucrezia del, 233, 236-8, 

Fehrle, 313. 

Feigned madness, 72, 87. 
Feis, 7. 

Femininity, 341. 
Feng, 77, 90, 94. 
Ferenczi, 4, 153, 239, 257, 272, 

287, 289, 355, 392, 394. 
Feridun, 74, 76, 77, 83. 
Fertilisation, 150, 289. 
Fertility, 134, 140, 154. 
Figgis, 6, 24, 61. 
Fitton, Mary, 60, 61, 66. 
Flatus, 105, 209. 
Flavonius, 277. 
Flavour, 134. 
Fleay } 63. 
Flemming, ijy. 
Fletcher, 14. 
Flight into work, 242. 
Floralia, 277. 
Flora, 277. 

Florence, 282, 283, 343. 
Flower, 323, 324, 327. 
Flügel, 43, 260. 
Flying, 147. 
Foetus, 298. 
'Föhnfieber', 281. 
Foolishness, 88, 89. See also 

Feigned madness and Doltish. 



Ford, 23. 

Foretell the weather, 128, 219, 

Fortmüller, 104. 
Fortunate Isles, 406. 
Franciabigio, 238, 239. 
Francis, King, 234, 235. 
Frazer, 140, 141, 144, 183, 280, 

284, 283, 298, 303-y, 315-6, 

. 3>*> 335> 3S 2 > 39^, 4*5> 4*7> 

Free Soul, 292. 

French, 60. 

Freud, 4, 5, 46, 47, jo, 57, 65, 
86, 94, 99, 101, 103, 104, 108, 
110, 11 t, 112, 149, 153, 163, 

2ü8, 211, 224, 26], 279, 292, 

306, 319, 326, 329, 333, 363, 
386, 390, 392, 394, 393, 413, 
416, 425, 426. 

Friday, 179. 

Von Freifen, 20. 

Friendship, 114, 115, 156. 

Frobenius, 138, 343. 

Frommann, iy8, 160. 

Fruitfulness, 160. 

Fuchs, 330. 

Fuld, 23. 

Fumigations, 316. 

Funeral oration, 332. 

Furness, iy, 86, 92. 

Furnivall, 37, 38, 40. 

Gabriel, 267, 321-3, 330, 345, 

357 : 35 8 - 
Gaddi, 265. 

Gadow, 349. 

Gaidoz, 335. 

Galen, 297, 308. 

Galton, 395. 

Gandy, 89. 

Garbha-Upanishad, 299. 

Garden of Eden, 344. 

Gargantua, 344. 

Gaseous impregnation, 422. 

Gaume, 123, 126. 

( Geist', 292. 

Gelber, 23. 

Genius, 1, 4, 244. 

Germania, 402. 

Gerth, 7, 23. 

Gertrude, 61. 

Gervinus, 9. . 

Gesta Romanorum, 172. 

Ghost, 95, 292. 

Holy, 415. 
Giant Ymir, 175. 
Gibil, 310. 
Gilbert, 303. 
Gilder, 166. 
Gilgam, 75, 80. 
Girschner, 332. 
Gnostics, 347. 
God-complex, 226. 
Goddess, Mother, 423, 425, 426, 

428, 429. 
God of Fire, 336. 
Goethe, 3, 8 ) fi. 
Gold, 153, 154. 
Golden Bough, 335. 
Gomara, 163. 
Gonorrhoeal rheumatism, 254. 

See also Rheumatism. 
Gonzago, 92. 
Gori, 265, 
Gough, 123. 
Gout, 143. 
Gozzoli, Benozzo, 265. 



Grail, Holy, 411. 
Grand father, 85. 
Tyrannical, 81. 
Grandson, 81. 
Gratian, 125. 
Grat tan, 405. 
Greek philosophy, 280. 
Greene, 63. 
Grillparzer, 21. 
Grimm, 120, 129, 154, 181. 
Griselda-complex, 80. 
Grohmann, 311, 312, 333. 
Groos, 392. 
De Gnbernaiis, i6j, 169, 333, 

Gnildenstern, 12, 56, 85. 
Guilt, sense of, 416. 
Gunnlod, 315. 

Haddon, 285. 

Hahn, von, 334. 

Hakluyt, 166. 

Hall, Stanley, 43, 44. 

Halliwell-Phillips, ij. 

Hamblet, 64. 

Hamlet legend, 72-3, 76, 78. 

Hamnet, 65. 

Handwriting, 213. 

Hanmer, 20. 

Hanumant, 343. 

Hanusch y 102. 

Harding, 332. 

Harlot, 427. 

Harris, 10, 48, 60, 61, 66. 

Hartland, jjo, 15 1-2, i$3 m 4> 

155» l6 4> !7 2 -5> l8 5-7, 2 74>i<¥- 
Hartmann , 7^7. 

Harvey, 67. 

Hate, 24, 81, 237, 241, 251, 256. 

' Hauchseele ', 270, 319. 

Haughtiness, 241. 

Haut-Vienne, 137. 

Hawkesworth, ijp. 

Heat, 305, 331. 

Hebler, ij. 

Hebrew Theology, 325, 417. 

Hecuba, 31. 

Hegelian philosophy, 22. 

Helm, 114, 118, 194. 

Hcidel 294, 298, 303-4, 307-9, 

.313-4, 316. 
Heine, 101. 
Heller, 118. 
Henderson, 146, 180. 
Henry IV, 49. 
Henry VI, 72. 
Henry VIII, 260. 
Hense, 41. 
Henslowc, 63. 
Hera, 275, 429. 
Heraclitus, 309. 
Hephaistos, 276, 296. 
Herbert, William, 60. 
Herder, 9. 
Herd Instinct, 425. 
Hermann, 59. 
Hermes, 13. 
Hermes, 287, 331. 
Hermetic, 305. 
Hero, 73-5, 81, 84, 87, 97. 
Herod, 76. 
Herodotus, 315, 330. 
Herrick, 117. 
Herzog, 267. 

Hesitancy, 6, 24, 30, 64, 96. 
Hesperides, 406. 
Hiawatha, 276, 305. 
Hierapolis, 333. 



Hippocrates, 298. 

Hirzel, 311. 

Hislop, 32 j. 

Hiong, 283. 

History, 364. 

Historical problems, 260. 

Hitschmann, 4. 

Hoang-Ty, 283. 

Hock, 102. 

Holy Communion, 416. 

Holy Dovc, 417. 

Holy Ghost, 415-30. 

Holy Grail, 411. 

Holy Mass, 416. 

Holy Springs or wells, 155. 

Holy water, T24-6. 

Homer, 11 3. 

Homesickness, 144. 

Homosexuality, 49, 238-41, 254, 


Sublimated, 424, 425. 
Hook-nose, 69. 
Hortense, 255. 
Horus, 76, 347, 417. 
Hospitality, 115, 156. 
Hostility, 44, 248. 
Howard, 142. 
Hudson, if. 
Huichol Indians, 140. 
Huixocihuaü, 179. 
Huldreslät, 407. 
Humour, 295. 
Hunting-horn, 330. 
Hurrakan, 283. 
Hutchinson, 413. 
Hutton, 358. 

Hypochondriac, 249, 254. 
Hysteria, 143, 317. 
Hysterical identification, 251. 

Iago, 30. 

Ilmatar, 277. 

Immersion, 425: 

Immortality, 113, 116, 135, 221. 

Impotence, 122, 143, 154, 160, 

348, 354; 
Impregnation, 422. 
Impulse, Oedipus, 423. 
Inaccessibility, 209, 210, 212. See 

also Aloofness. 
Incense, 314. 
Incest, 36, 37; 53, 74, 79, 82, 84, 

105, 163, 263, 302, 355, 415, 424. 
Incubi, 138. 
Indian Mutiny, 115. 
Indian philosophy, 280. 
Inertia, 93. 
Infantile theory, 102. 
Infantile sexuality, 263, 386. 
Inhibition, 7, 26, 29, 36, 58. 
Initiation ceremonies, 16, 138, 

164, 173. 35 2 > 4 2 4, 4 2 5- 
Inman, 144, 145. 
Inspiration, 315, 317, 338. 
Instmct, herd, 425. 
Interest in psychology, 214. 
Internal pneuma, 304. 
International politics, 257. 
Intestinal : 

breath, 304. 

decomposition, 274. See also 


gas, 290, 298, 318, 321, 352. 
Intolerance, 220. 
Introjection, 257. 
Introspection, 29. 
Ihuit, 161. 
Ireland, 398-414. 
Irrational Soul, 295. See also Soul. 



Irresolution, 248. 
Irony, 92. 
Isaac, 8, 60. 
Ishtar, 344. 
Isis, 417, 428, 429. 
Island, 398-414. 

Magic, 405, 407, 41 t. 

The Fortunate, 406. 
Isolation, 214. 

Jairus, 282. 

James, William, 378. 

James VI, 8. 

Jameson, Mrs. } 345. 

Jan et, 217. 

Jastroivitz, 88. 

Jealousy, 42-4, 46, 146, 258. 

Jehovah, 209, 224. 

Jemiings, 179. 

Jephthah, 56. 

Jericho, walls of, 354. 

Jesus, 76. 

Jiriczek, 73. 

John the Baptist, 287, 310. 

Johnson, 197. 

Joinville, 172. 

Jonah, 337. 

Joseph, 334, 335. 

Josephine, 254, 255, 257, 260. 

Jouan, 164. 

Jubainville, 410. 

Judaism, 418, 425. 

Judas Iscariot, 74. 

Jung, 46, in, 268, 291, 305, 

3i°> 339- 
Jupiter, 284. 
Jurupari pipes, 052. 
Julius Caesar, 6/, 69, 71. 
Juvenal, 167. 

Kaikhosrav, 73, 88. 

Kalevala, 277. 

Kända, 275. 

Kam, 162. 

Kant, 104, 218. 

Kapota, 336. 

Karna, 84, 346. 

Renting, 403. 

Keats, /. 

Kellog, 25, 41. 

Keraunos, 286. 

Khandogya-Upanishad, 290, 310. 

Kharda Avesta, 169. 

Killiher, 413. 

Ring, 322, ßjo. 

King, 67. 

Ringsley, 167. 

Klosterneuburg, 358. 

Klein, 14, 19, 22. 

Knowledge, 91. 

of omniscience, 216. 
Knox, 159. 

Kohler, 23, 25, 27, 35. 
Kolbein, 139, 161. 
Koshti, 161. 
Röstlin, 10, 

Krauss, 102, 120, 178, 182, 274. 
Krenitzin, 166. 
Krishna, 168. 
Kronos, 406. 
Kuhn, 12), 
Kugler, 228, 286. 
Kunti, 346. 
Kväfir, 315. 
Kwakiutl, 345. 
Ryd, 63-6, 92, 94-6. 

Laehr, 41. 

Laertes, 12, 17, 18, 55, 77, 78, 
82, 85, 97. 



Laistner, 312. 

Lameness, 138, 143. 

Landmann, 41. 

Lang, Andrew, ijp, 285, 352. 

Language, 220. 

Langlois, 265, 266. 

Lap, 330. 

Larousse, 334, 338, 340. 

Last Trump, 282. 

Latham, 64. 

Lavalette, 255. 

Lazvrence, 113, 115, 119, 120, 
122, 124, 125, 127, 129, 131, 
142, 144, 145, 147, 177, 182, 

Layard, 228, 236. 

Laying of Salt, 119. 

Lebrun, 253. 

Lecky, 268. 

Lenormant, ijj. 

Lessmann, jj. 

Levy, Ludwig, 289, 343. 

Liebau, 23, 

Ligature, 137. 

Lightning, 286. 

Lüy, 35 8 - 

Liuflingslag, 407. 

Lingua, 311. 

Lippi, Filippo, 265. 

Lisiansky, 166, 179. 

Lodge, 37, 56, 63, 94. 

Loening ) 7, 12, 15, t6, 22, 23, 

25, 26, 30, 31, 51, 58, 93. 
Logos, 268, 288, 291, 310, 338, 

350, 421. 
Loki, 172. 
Long, 162. 
Longfellow, 305. 
Lorenz, 354. 

Lot's wife, 190. 

Love-philtres, 159. 

Loyalty, 114, 115, 156, 173. 

Lucian, 333. 

Lumen Christi, 187. 

Lumholtz, 140. 

Luminu-ut, 277. 

Lusitania, 279. 

Luther, 285. 

Luzel, ijS. 

Lyra Messianica, 409. 

McGillicitddy, 166. 
Mackenzie, 8, 9, 20. 
Madonna, 261 et seq. 
Maeterlinck, 332, 
Magical : 

Island, 405/407, 411. 

Powers, 134. 
Magicians, 120. 
Mahabarata, 168, 346. 
Mahabharat-Adiparva, 246. 
Mahaenna, 268. 

Maitrayana-Upanishad, 299, 300. 
Mala Vita, 173. 
Maleficium, 37. 
Male organ, 352. 
Mahne, 63. 
Manito, 305. 
Manley, 116. 
Mann, 162. 
Mannhardt, 120. 
Mantra, 346. 
Mares, 279. 
Marett, 285. 
Marie-Louise, 257. 
Mariolatry, 430. 
Marlitt, 313. 
Maronites Breviary, 264. 



Marriage, 136. 

Martial, 313. 

Martin, L. C, 339. 

Martini, Simone, 265, 358. 

Martyrdom, 337. 

Mary, Queen of Scots, 8. 

'Mary Rose', 407. 

Mary, Virgin, 426, 428, 429. 

Masochism, 240. 

Mass, Holy, 416. 

Masson, 2, 67, 69, 245. 

Masturbation, 423. 

Mauerhof, 10. 

Maurice, 168. 

Maury, jjj, 336, 337, 338. 

Maya, 268, 343. 

Meadoiüs, 12. 

Measure for Measure, 33, 67. 

Medes, 172. 

Medicine-men, 161. 

Mefitis, 303. 

Meister des Marialebens, 266. 

Melancholia, 39, 57. 

Melville, 156, 161, 162, 166. 

Mercade, 7. 

Meredith, George, 206. 

Meropis, 406. 

Merry Wives of Windsor, 137. 

Messiah, 177, 305, 325, 417, 

418, 429. 
Meyer, Kuno, 410. 
Mezieres, 2). 
Mice, 122, 136. 
Michabo, 276. 
Michael Angela, 227, 229. 
Milk, 155, 180, 181, 185. 
Milton, )ij. 
Mind, 290. 

Unconscious, 383. 

Minerva, 348, 422. 

Misogyny, 49, 84, 254, 255. 

Mistletoe, 335. 

Mitlira, 305. 

Mithraism, 416. 

Modesty, 51. 

Moffel 182. 

Mogk, jrj. 

Moisture, 301-4, 320. 

Mohere, 268. 

Money, 118, 154, 216, 287. 

Mongolian Saviour, 268. 

Monists, 309. 

Montaigne, 7. 

Montem ceremony, 118. 

Mooney, ijS. 

Moor, 168. 

Moral conscience, 416. 

Moresin, 116, 117, 126. 

Morfill, 347. 

Mörike, 2j8. 

Moses, 76, 85, 205. 

Mother-earth, 323. 

-goddess, 423, 425, 426, 428, 429. 

Primal, 424, 428. 

Virgin, 401, 412. 
Mother's misconduet, 37. 

womb, 407. 
Mouth, 268, 337. 
Mudjekewis, 276. 
Mühlhauser, 138. 
Müller, Max, 161, 167. 
Mungo Park, ijj. 
Murder, 6, 16, 17, 37, 38, 53, 64, 96. 
Music, 262, 263, 287. 
Muss-Amolt, 344. 
Mystery, 209, 211, 212. 
Mythological decomposition, 322. 
Mythology, Christian, 415, 4 



Nagin, 141. 

Nahuas, 179. 

Namuluk, 332. 

Napier, 126. 

Napoleon, 170, 212, 245-52, 

Napoleon III, 252, 256. 
Narcissism, 207, 220, 225, 355. 
Narcissistic-exhibitionism, 211. 
Nash, 63. 
Nassau, 126. 
Necrophilia, 100, 101. 
Nectar, 177, 291, 315. 
Nephesh, 292. 
Neptune, 182, 183. 
Neurosis, 93. 
New-born, 121, 126. 
New Britain, Solka of, 393. 
New Knowledge, 216. 
New man, 325. 
Niagara, 106, 107, 109. 
Nias, 140. 

Nietzsche, 214, 225, 372, 388. 
Nimrod, 76. 
Nirang, 167. 
Nirvana, 409. 
Noah, 337. 
Norlk, 268. 
Nostril, 341, 342. 
Nubte, 347. 
Nutrition, 298, 307. 
Nutt, Alfred, 410, 411. 

O' Donneil, Hugh, 403. 
Odour, 312-17. 
Odrerir, 315. 

Oedipus, 50, 67, 74, 82, 224. 
Oedipus complex, 374, 401, 415, 
416, 424, 429, 430. 
impulse 423. 
Oestrup, 153. 
OGrady, 403. 
Ogygia, 406. 
Ohnivak, 332. 
Olofaet, 332. 
Ominus, 41. 

Omniscience, 216. See also Know- 
Omnipotence, 215, 354, 355. 
of speech, 350. 
of thought, 290, 350, 406. 
Ophelia, 7, 12, 51, 52, 54, 55, 
60, 81, 84, 85, 90, 91. 

Ophitic sect, 417. 

Oppenheim, 89. 

Oracles, 338. 

Orcagna, 343. 

Ordure, 151. 

Origen, 279. 

Original sin, 416. 

Osiris, 417. 

Osthanes, 158. 

Othello, 59, 61, 171. 

Over-determination, 61. 

Owen, i8j. 

Obbe, 162. 

Obersteiner, IJ2. 

Obscene jokes, 273. See also 

Obscene words, 393, 394. 
Odin, 172, 281, 283, 315. 

Pacificts, 361. 
Painting, 262, 263. 
Pallas, i6y. 
'Panchakaryam', 167. 
Pandava, 346. 
Panis Farreus, 186. 



Papas, 283. 

Paracelsus, 138, 

Paranoia, 211, 259. 

Parjanya, 284. 

Partiell, 412. 

Parricide, 70, 415. 

Parsifal, 88. 

Parthogenesis, 122. 

Partridges, 279, 286, 340. 

Paternal archetype, 79. 

Paternum salinum, 145. 

Paton, 184. 

Patriotism, 373. 

Pearse, P., 403. 

Peahens, 150. 

Pederastia, 313. 

Penis, the woman with the, 424. 

Perfume, 324, 331. 

Pericuis, 166. 

Perseus, 74, 75, 80, 81, 85. 

Petrie, Flinders, 76. 

Petroff, 166. 

Pettazoni, 285. 

Phallic power, 348. 

Phantasies, 101. 

Incestuous, 263. 
Pharoah, 76. 
Phelo, 177. 
Philo, 334. 
Phobia of fire, 306. 
Phoenix, 331, 332, 347. 
Phtheia, 334, 422. 
Picart, i6j. 
Pigeon, 339, 340. 
Pinches, 344, 
Pinkerton, 159, 180. 

Pipe, 339- 
Pures, 88. 
Pitre, 114, 138. 

Placenta, 156. 

Plancy, Collin de, 114, 120. 

Plato, 113. 

Pleasure-principle, 359. 

Pledges, 115. 

Pliny, 122, 136, 159, 160, 190, 

279, 286, 335, 348. 
Ploss, 160, ijo, 178. 
Plotinus, 291, 309, 330. 
Plumptre, 8. 
Plutarch, 70, 71, 11 ß, 117, 183, 

186, 279, 347, 348, ßfO. 

Pluto, 303. 

Plutonia, 302. 

Pneuma, 295-7, 3 o8 - IO > 3 r 4> 3 l8 > 

3 X 9- 
concept, 420. 

Poel, 78. 

Poeticcreation, 4, 59. See also Art. 

Poetry, 263. 

Polonius, 7, 12, 16, 17, 56, 68-70, 

79, 81, 82, 84, 87, 91, 92. 
Poojah, 1.68. 
Pope Felix, 264. 
Posa, Alfoors of, 393. 
Potency, 136. 
Powell, York, ji. 
Power, 353. 
Pragapati, 211. 
Pragmatism, 213. 
Pränas, 290^293, 299, 300. 
Prasna-Upanishad, 299, 300. 
Pre-Adamite race, 277. 
Precordial, 273. 
Pregnancy, 154, 274. 
Preller-Robert, 302. 
Primäre, De, 283. 
Pre-natal, 308. 
Preuss, 270. 



Primal mother, 424, 428. 
Prince, 344. 
Privacy, 212. 
Procrastination, 33. 
Prometheus, 301, 177. 
Prophet, 216. 
Prostitutes, Sacred, 141. 
Protestant Reformation, 430. 
Protestantism, 325. 
Prudishness, 54. 
Psyche, 292, 309, 319. 
Psychical reality, 272. 
Psycho-sexual, 4, 35. 
Ptah, 311, 350. 
Punctuality, 218. 
Purgatory, 121. 
Purification, 130. 
Puritanism, 358. 
Ptttnam, 80, 145. 
Putrefaction, 152. See also De- 

Pythagoras, 191. 
Pythia, 315. 

Quarto, 66. 
Quetzalcoatl, 270. 
Quintessence, 118, 314. 

Ra > x 75> 3 2 5- 
Rabelais, 345. 

Rabbi Petachia, 172. 

Rain-gods, 179. 

Rajput, 174. 

Ramayana, 343. 

Rank, Otto, 5, 46 ', 50,67,70, ji, j), 
80 , 83, 83, 86, 88-9, 92, 110, 130, 
2jy, 282, 289, 326,408, 40g, 418. 

Raphael, 227, 229, 242. 

Rapp, 20. 

Rara avis, 332. 

Rationalisation, 30, 36. 
Rational soul, 294. See also Soul. 
Reality-principle, 359. 
Rebelliousness, 49. 
Re-birth, 163. 

Cauldron of, 411. 
Rklus, 138, 1.61. 
Reconciliation with the Father, 

416, 423. 
Reformation, protestant, 430. 
Regression, 78, 241, 396. 
Reichet, 20. 

Reik, Th., 352, 424, 426. 
Reinsberg, Düringsfeld von, 123, 

Rettier, 2J4, 306. 

Religion, 221, 261. 

Relish, 127. 

Remus, 75. 

Rheumatism, 143. See also Go- 

norrhoeal rheumatism. 

Rhys, 183, 184. 

Repression, 4, 34, 40-2, 45^ 

4 8 -5°> 53» 5 6 " 8 > 74, 7 6 - 8 - 
Repression forces, 54. 

Resentment, 49. 

Respiration, 297, 298, 307. 

Cosmic, 304. 
Respiratory : 

exercises, 295. 

health, 304. 

process, 318. 
Resurrection, 286. 
Reumont, 230, 235, 241. 
Revenge, 85, 88, 96. See also 

Rhea, 167. 
Ribbeck, ij. 
Riddles, 92. 



Riedel, 2jj, 

Rigveda, 284, 311, 336. 

Rio, 7. 

Rival, 81. 

Rival father, 74. See also Father. 

River-god, 305. 

Robbia, Della, 265. 

Robertson, 6, 7, 13, 20, 21 , 23, 63, 95. 

Rochefoucauld, La, 44. 

Rocquain, 245. 

Roederer, 255. 

Rogers, 119. 

Rohde, 302, 315. 

Röheim, 198. 

Roi Soleil, Le, 210. 

Rolfe, 15, 58. 

Romano, Guilio, 230. 

'Rombo', 285. 

Romulus, 75, 80, 85. 

Root word, 194. 

Rops, Felicien, 32g. 

Röscher, 309, 

Roscoe, 140. 

Rosencrantz, 12, 56, 85. 

Rosner, 41. 

Roy Jyotirmoy, 345. 

Rubinstein, 23, 41. 

'Ruach', 294, 326. 

Rumelin, 20. 

Russell, B, 140. 

Rustici, 238, 239. 

Sabbath, 169. 

Sachs, Hanns, 62, 282. 

Sacred prostitutes, 141. See also 

Sacrifice, 125, 415. 
Sacrificial cakes, 124. 
Sadger, j t 49, 99, 100, 102, 103, 

104, 109. 

Sadism, 101, 105, 355. 

St. Agobard, 264, 365. 

St, Augustine, 188, 264, 279. 

St. Chrysostom, 324. 

St. Eleutherius, 288, 419. 

St. Ephrem, 264, 289, 323. 

St. Francis, 327. 

5/. Fulgentius, 289. 

St. Gaudentius, 342. 

St. Gregory, 74. 

St. John, 288, 311. 

St. Luke, 288. 

5/. Mark, 288. 

St Paul, 288, 302. 

St Peter, 205. 

St. Proclus, 264. 

St Remy, 335. 

St. Ruffinus, 264. 

St Zeno, 288, 289, 342, 419. 

Salacia, 183. 

Salamander, 347. 

Salary, 118. 

Salax, 137. 

Säle, 2jo. 

Saliöre, 145. 

Sal Sapientiae, 114. 

Salt, 112-203. 

Attic salt, 127. 

Bread and salt, 129. 

Durability of salt, 113. 

Laying of salt, 119. 

Salt-cellar, 145. See also under 

Salt-coats, 120. 

Saltier, 171. 

Salt-Silver, 118. 

Salt and Wheat, 130. 

Spilling salt, 112, 115. 
Salus, 122. 



Salzburg, 120, 

Salzkotten, 120. 

Salzstein,- 125. 

Samäna, 299. 

Samson, 317. 

Saiisovino, 238, 239. 

Sar, 193. 

Sardinia, 180. 

Sarrazin, 6j* 

Satan, 322. 

Satapatha-Brähmana, 275. 

Sausages, 151. 

Savagcry, 381. 

Saving phantasies, 224. 

Savonarola, 262. 

Saxo Grammaticus, (>2 y 76, 8j. 

Saxo, 71, 84, 94. 

Scepticism, 7, 10, 11. 

1 Schattenseele \ 319. 

Schell, ijj. 

Schipper, 23. 

Schlaraffenland, 407. 

Schlegel, 9, 10. 

Schieiden, uj, 118-22, 125, 127, 

*3°i J 3T9^ 145» W-Z* 3 S4i 
171, 178, 190-3. 

Schurig, 160, 285. 

Schwarz, 2j6, 286, 

Schweinfiirth, 161, 165. 

i Scoppio del Carro ', 336. 

Scoptolagnia, 214. 

Scotland, 398. 

Scot, Reginald, 126, 160. 

Scott, Leader, 228, 243. 

Scott, Sir Walter, 250. 

Sculpture, 263. 

Seal-cylinders, 344. 

Sebek, 347. 

Seclusiveness, 248. 

Secrecy, 90. 
Scct, Ophitic, 417. 
Seier, 282. 
Self-accusations, 33. 
Self-castration, 423, 430. 
Self-effacement, 208. 
Self-reproaches, 29, 31. 
Seligmami, 113, 120, 121, 123, 

125, 126, 137, 138, 154, 182, 

183, 185, 187. 
Semen, 136, 142, 143, 153, 160, 

161, 164, 193, 199. See also 

Semiramis, 333, 422. 
Semitic, 344, 345. 
Sense of Guilt, 416. 
Sensuality, 52, 54, 55. 
Sepp, 102. 
Sessi, 347. 
Set, 76, 347. 
Seville, 348. 

Sexual instinct in children, 47. 
Sexuality, infantile, 386. 
Shadow-Soul, 319. See also 

Shakespeare, 2, 6-8, 16, 18, 20, 

33, 41, 48, 61, 63-5, 67, 71, 

78, 84, 86-7, 92-8, 137, 279, 
Shamans, 158. 
Shame, 49. 

Shapast la Shayast, 168. 
Sliaw, Bemard, 44, 
Shelley, 49, 224, 225, 280, ßß2. 
Shillooks, 161. 
Shore, W, T„ 21. 
Short, 169. 
Sibree, 126. 
Sierich, 279. 
Sigismund, 41. 




Sikes, ii6j 146. 
Silberer, 30 j. 
Silberschlag, <?. 
Silence, 3, 350. 
Simulatedfoolishness, 88. See also 

Feigned madness and Doltish. 
Simulation of madness, 86. See 

also Feigned madness and 

Sin, 163. 

Original, 416. 

Unpardonable, 423. 
Sindur dan', 174. 
Singing, 262. 
Siphoum, 139. 
Siva, 286. 
Slang, 396. 
Slavonic, 178, 181. 
Smell, 314. 

Smith and Cheetham, 337. 
Smith, Moore, 67. 
Smyth, 779. 

Snake, 312, 323, 327, 349. 
Snake-God, 141. 
Snipe, 279. 
Social instincts, 44. 

Psychology, 367, 368. 
Social revolutionaries, 49. 
Sociology, 367. 
Socrates, 3. 
Sodium, 114. 
Sodom, 190. 
Solovoof, 166. 

Soma, 177, 291, 306, 315, 335. 
Son lover, 428. 
Song of Solomon, 323. 
Sophia, 114. 
Soranus, 170. 
Soudan, 349. 

Soul, 269, 291-301, 303, 33*i 337*. 

Bound-Soul, 291. 

Free-Soul, 292. 

Irrational-Soul, 295. 

Rational-Soul, 294. 

'Schattenseele', 319.. 

Shadow-Soul, 319. 

World-Soul, 291, 294. 
Sound, 282, 305, 320, 331. 
Southey, lyj. 
Spanier, 7. 

Spanish compliment, 145. 
Spanish Tragedy, 64, 65. 
Speech, 287, 288, 309, 310, 312, 

320, 321, 329, 338. 
Speght, 67. 
Spelling, 217. 
Sperber, 287, 340. 
Sperma, 138, 291, 306. See also 

Sphinx, 6. 
Spirit, 292. 
Spit, 155, 269. 
Spit-fire, 311. 
Spying, 90, 92. 
Stammering, 287. 
Stanley, 349. 
Stedefeld, 7. 
Stein, 268. 

Stekel, 99, 110, 207, 209. 
Sterility, 152. 
Sterling, 7. 
Stern, 330. 
Stigmata, 327. 
Stoics, 294, 296, 303, 305-9. 
Storfer, 18. 
Storffrich, ji. 
Strachey, 10, 
Strack, 172. 



Strauß, 325. 

Strehlow, 2j6. 

Strindberg, 238. 

Stuck, hj. 

Styx, 409. 

Sublimated homosexuality, 424, 

Sublimation, 369, 381, 386. 

Succubi, 138. 

Sudra, 161. 

Suffragists, 199. 

Sun, 349. 

Suicide, 38, 40, 57, 98, 108, 109. 

Sulka of New Britain, 393. 

Sulphur, 117, 317. 

Sulphuretted hydrogen, 303. 

Sumerian, 344. 

Superstition, 112, 203. 

Decline of Superstition, 203. 
Susanna, 324. 
Suspicion, 256. 
Swan, 166. 
Swan, 323. 
Sweat, 161, 175, 184. 
Symbolism, 133, 135, 141, 144, 

148, 151. 
Symbolism of: 

Aperture, 198. 

Apples, 160. 

Bird, 147, 148, 3 2 5-33- 

Blue, 179. 

East-Wind, 277, 281. 

Eggs, 185. 

Exhibitionism, 69. 

Fire, 176-7, 183, 197, 305, 307, 

321, 33 1 » 33 6 - 
Fire-bird, 332. 
Fire- Water, 176. 
Fish, 179. 

Gas-jets, 306. 
Golden apples, 406. 
Head, 327. 
Ught, 305. 

Lil y> 3 2 3> 3 2 4- 
Lions, 286. 
Lizard, 347. 
Mercury, 117. 
Messenger, 322. 
Neck, 329. 
Oak, 335. 

Olive-branch, 337, 344. 
Oven, 144. 
Queen, 100. 
Rays, 304. 
Rice, 123, 182, 
Saliva, 155, 269, 315. 
Salt-cellar, 145. 
Serpent, 334. 
Shoes, 182. 
Snake-God, 141. 
South-Wind, 277, 
Spring-Wind, 277. 
Tail, 147. 
Tears, 161. . 

Tongue, 310-2, 329, 338, 348. 
Tree, 153. 
Trident, 286. 
Trisula, 286. 
West-Wind, £76, 281. 
Womb, 408. 
System, totemistic, 415. 

Taboös, 298. 
Tacitus, 178. 
Taine, 6, J9. 
Tamnuz, 345. 
Tangaroa, 328. 
Tarquinus Superbus, 71. 



Taste, 126, 128, 314. 

Taittiriyaka Upanishad, 291, ß4ß. 

Taylor, 283, 351. 

Tears, 161. 

Telephos, 74, 75, 80. 

Teil, William, 88. 

Tennysoiiy 410. 

Tertullian, 194, 327, 346. 

Theban, 6. 

Theology, Hebrew, 417. 

Thiersch, 41. 

Tluers, 169. 

Thomas, 140. 

Thor, 282, 286. 

Thorpe, j86. 

Thought, omnipotence of, 290, 

350, 406. 
Thunder, 219,283-5, 320, 328,421. 

-bird, 328. 

-storms, 223. 

-weapons, 286, 318, 421. 
Thurnberg, jjg y 162. 
Tieck, ßß, fi. 
Tiek y ßto. 
Tirus-nog, 41 1. 
Titan niotive, 354. 
Titus Andronicus, 72. 
Tolman, if. 
Tom-toms, 284. 
Tonacateculi, 270. 
Totem clan, 418. 
Totemistic banquet, 416. 
Totemistic system, 415. 
Torquemada, 199. 
Tower of Babel, 354. 
Trench, /ö, 27. 

Trinity, 325, 417, 426, 428, 429. 
Tromp, iß$. 
Trotter, Wilfred, ß68. 

Trumbull, 161. 

Trumpets, 329. 

Tube, 330. 

Tuna, 178. 

Türck, 9. 

Turtle-dove, 341. 

Tyler, 60, 392. 

Tyrannical fathcr, 74, 75. See 

also Father. 
Tyrannical grandfather, 81. See 

also Grandfather. 
Tyrant, 76-8, 80, 83. 

Ubriciy 22. 
Udana, 302. 
Ukko, 176. 
Unas, 349. 
Uncle, Wicked, 71. 
Unconscious, 271. 

Mind, 383. 
Unicorn, 330. 
Unpardonable sin, 423. 
Upanishad, 291, 293. 
Urine, 142, 156-70, 175, 301, 306. 
Uiinoscopy, 158, 161. 
Usurpation, 53. 
Uterine fluid, 301. 

Vacillation, 22. 
Valera, De, 412, 414. 
Valerian, 317. 
Valetudinarianism, 248. 
Vampyrism, 101. 
Vapour, 302-4, 308. 
Vapour bath, 315. 
Vasari, 2}i, 233-5, 239. 
Vaughan, 338. 
Vedäntasära, 300. 
Vedas, 290. 


, 453 

Vedic literature, 275, 290, 299. 
Vengeance, 96. See also Avenge 

and Revenge. 
Ventriloquism, 289. 
Verdun, Nicholas, 267. 
Ver/mell, 256. 
Verrocchio, 265, 
Vinnig, 7. 

Virgil, 190, 279, ü/. 
Virgin Mary, 426, 428, 429. 
Virgin Mother, 401, 402. 
Visclter jo } jp. 
Voice, 287, 332. 
Volatile, 314. 
Vorberg, 126. 
Vultures, 279. 
Vyäna, 299. 

Wainemoinen, 175. 
VVaitz 328. 
Waidenburg, 182. 
Waldron, jip. 
Wales, 398, 399, 400. 
Walls of Jericho, 354. 
War, 360-80, 381-90. 
Ward, 344. 
Warmth, 304-12. 
Warter, jjj. 
Water, 178, 408. 
Wealth, 118, 154. 
Weather, 159. 

Foretell the, 218-9, 223. 
Wedding, 156, 159. 

cake, 186. 

ring, 160. 
Wells, H. G., 210. 
Wenonah, 276. 
Werder, 14, 15, 58, 95. 
Wemicke, ij2. 

Werther, 9. 

Weston, })6. 

Wetz, 30. 

Wheat, 182. 

Wheat and Salt, 129. 

Wheeler, 168. 

Widgery, ij, 63. 

Williams, Monier, 161. 

Wül-power, 29. 

Willsford, 128. 

Wdsön, Dover, 38, 66. 

Wind, 331, 421. 

Winstanley, Lilian, 8. 

Wisdom, 113-4, 127, 135, 334, 

338, 348, 349- 

Wishes, castration, 422. 

Wit, 394. 

Witches, 120, 124, 126, 129, 147, 

158, 169. 
Waiels, 4g. 
Witticisms, 127. See also Obscene 

Witzschel, 281. 
Wlislocki, von, ij2, 185. 
'Woman with the penis', 424. 
Womb, 145, 401. 

Mother, 407. 

Symbol, 408. 
Words, obscene, 393, 394. 
Wordsworth, j6, 406, 408. 
Woiid-Soul, 291, 294. See also 

Wright, 120. 
Wandt, 270, 291. 
Würzburg, 330, 339, 342. 
Wuttke, nj, 1 19-21, 123-4, 126, 

128-9, 144» 153» l8o > IÖ2 > l8 5> 

Yama, 336. 


Yahweh, 283, 131, 342. Zeus, 209, 283-4, ^i 2 9 > 296, 

Yeats, W. Ä, 405. 334*5t33 8 > A* 2 - 

Yedizi, 187. Zephyrus, 277. 

Zinzow ) 73. 
Zacharias, 287. Zohak, 76, 77. 

Zethod, 76. Zunis, 170. 


Emeritus Professor of Neurology, Harvard university. With a 
Preface by Sigm. Freud, M.D., LL.D. 

Drs. S. Ferenczi (Budapest), Karl Abraham (Berlin), Ernst Simmel 
(Berlin) and Ernest Jones (London). INTRODUCTIÖN by Professor 
Sigm. Freud (Vienna). 

J. C. Flügel, B.A. 

M. D., LL. D. Authorized Translation from the second German 
Edition by C. J. M. Hubback. 

Jones, M. D. President of the International Psycho - Analyücal 

EGO. By Sigm. Freud, M.D., LL.D. Authorized Translation by 
James Strachey. 



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